Ireland was grand, as they say over there. Two weeks of constant rain and sheltering in friendly pubs, it was the most relaxing holiday I’ve ever spent, the common description of the place as being so much more relaxed than we are is very true, particularly in Eire and the rural areas of the north.
We journeyed south down the east coast and back north by the west coast stopping at many places, the scenery and hospitality were fantastic as was the history of the place which I confess I thought I knew about but didn’t really. Songs and stories are no substitute for visiting places, I visited the battle of the Boyne site and centre in Drogheda, it was brilliant and very informative, suffice to say the songs don’t do it justice. It was one of the biggest (possibly the biggest) land battles ever fought between two standing armies in Europe where 1,500 lives were lost.
Drogheda itself has an incredible history, sacked by Cromwell in the most blood soaked and barbaric siege imaginable, yet today it is a lovely peaceful place where the famous river Boyne flows through the town and the people are kind and generous to visitors, well worth a visit.
I also discovered where all the ’Hippies’ of my youth have gone, they are settled in Galway, (what a place) famous for it’s beauty through songs and tales from Galway Bay to the topical cider advert. It has a vibrant arts scene and when we were there Robert Redford and Peter O’ Toole were visiting it’s famous film festival.
The Galway Arts Festival itself was starting and you could hear every language being spoken in the pubs and venues. I thought there would be something to mark the birth place and residence of a Galway girl called Nora Barnacle who was a feisty tearaway of a woman, she also spent her life married to the writer James Joyce.
Her tiny house has been preserved as a museum and it’s captivating, if you can get moving for Americans, four people can make the living room crowded. Nora is the inspiration for one of the greatest characters in literary history “Molly Bloom” from Joyce’s great novel ‘Ullyses’ this is a challenging book but well worth the effort, I’ve been reading it on and off for 45 years.
Galway is full of tiny streets and shops, pubs, markets and the inevitable churches which are as usual in Ireland, disproportionate in size and splendour to the population. They seem to be involved in a continuous party and it’s a fantastic place to visit, don’t miss it if you get the chance.
I last visited the village of Keady in Armagh where my dad’s family come from approx. 50 yrs. ago and, through a stroke of luck the people we were staying with had been around there all their lives, a couple of calls were made and from sparse information we were able to locate some of our distant family, we visited a great aunt and uncle who were both out in the fields working when we arrived, both in their middle eighties.
We had a great blether and went over old times, rather sad though as most of the people we mentioned are gone but these two, James and Molly look indestructible.
On a more sombre note, almost everyone we spoke to told a story of great uncertainty about their future with reference to unemployment and the economy, the evidence is obvious of how Ireland has benefited as the Celtic Tiger, the number of new houses is staggering and their size suggests there has certainly been a boom but, that seems to be over and for sale signs are everywhere, The Irish are at the moment a very worried people, they face very trying times and great uncertainty.
I am now about to catch up with what has been happening, I believe there is a by election on, football is nearly back (thank god) and 'good ole boy' Bush is cosying up to those evil axis folks in Ayrak, I wonder if I’ve been reported to anyone while I’ve been away ?