My longtime friend Pete Shaw is such a magnificent writer and many years ago (in 1988 or so) he wrote this wonderful story for me when I owned my newspaper in Running Springs. Pete is Irish through and through and proud of his Irish heritage. I love this sentimental story and since St. Patrick’s Day is right around the corner this wonderful story (and beautiful words from one of Ireland’s favorite songs) needs the light of day on this blog.
“A visit to Ireland” by Pete Shaw, written in 1988
“Kerry, Donnegal, Clare, Killarney, Conemara, Galway, Tralee. These musical names are counties of acres of Ireland. I recently fulfilled a lifelong dream of visiting the “auld sod.”
From the moment I stepped off the plane and put my foot on Irish ground the country took me over. The first impressions I received was the warmth and outgoing nature of the Irish people. there is an expression in Ireland that “a stranger is simply someone you have not met.”
Talking is an art. First of all, lots of time is allowed for conversation. Asking directions often results in a half-hours exchange of words and laughter. The words are the lyrics and the voice and tone are like a melody. Not once did I experience a rude or indifferent response to my questions and comments.
There are authentic characters everywhere in the country. Old farmers with weathered faces, wool caps and rubber boots; fresh, cream-faced children with twinkles of innocence; sturdy young men with blue Celtic eyes and Mums and Nannies.
It is the women, the Mums and Nannies that are the oats in the meal of the country They are all the time saying their “glory be’s” and “God willin’s.”
I talked with several young Irish girls who told me the reason they marry at such a late age or even not at all in Ireland is because the mother’s and grandmother’s spoil the young men terribly. That has created a population called the “bachelor boys.”
Everything in Ireland is documented in song:
“Sure I love the dear silver that shines in your hair’ and the brow that’s all wrinkled and furrowed with care.
I kiss the dear fingers so toil-worn for me,
Oh, god bless you and keep you, Mother McCree.”
The land in Ireland is velvety green and slate grey. It is an ancient landscape with rounds of soft hills that provide the backdrop for old moss and ivy-covered ruins.
“Sure a little bit of heaven fell from out the sky one day,
And nestled on the ocean in a spot so far away………”
Castles, seacoast lookouts and fortresses dot the landscape. Its aura is timlessness, gentleless, patience. One gets the feeling must be little spirits mischievously inhabiting the hedgerows, overgrown huts and lush glens of the countryside.
“Time goes on and the happy years are dead. And one-by-one the merry hearts have fled.
Silent now is the wild and lovely glen
where the bright laughter will echo ne’er again.”
If one word could express the feeling of the country I would have to say it has a “lilt” about it. Always there is a soft humming and twinkle about the people and the land.
Thee is also a lack of money and small prospect of a prosperous future. There is a declining population as more and more of Ireland’s young men and women go of to America, Canada or Australia to earn a living and accumulate enough money to return to the island. Most never come back to stay.
There is a church that mixes itself in Irish politics, there are long, raw months of winter when the sun is seldom seen.
But always, there is a clean tidy tablecloth and a pot of tea. On Sunday mornings the chimes ring through the villages tolling their invitation to come and worship.
When the sun breaks through the ever-moving clouds it casts rainbows over the emerald fields and the people quietly celebrate each hour of warmth. And always there is a good handshake for the stranger.
I met a lot of people during my stay and I felt each person was very happy to meet me and sad at our parting.
Some would be put off by the sentimental quality of the Irish people and culture but for me, there was a lovely innocence about the people and the place.
Ireland draws one back…often the evenings in the pub are closed by a parting song called The Parting Glass.
“Oh, all the money that e’er I’ve spent
I spent it in good company.
And all the harm that e’er I’ve done
Alas, it was to none but me.
And all I’ve done for want of wit
To memory now I can’t recall,
So fill to me the parting glass
Good night and joy be with you all.
I must go now. Sure’n I’ll be runnin’ out of tissues before I dry the ink.