Those of us who compulsively read guide books about where we’re going and where we are, read this sensible lesson: “Don’t tell the Irish that you’re Irish too, just because your ancestors were from Ireland.”
OK. We don’t have ancestors from Ireland anyway, so it isn’t going to be a problem.
“So, do ya know,” asked John Murphy of Kinsale fame, lager in hand, “what percentage of tourists here are from America? Twenty six percent! That’s a lawt!” he said. “Lookin’ for their roots, ya know.” He didn’t seem to mind.
And true enough, as a graduate of no fewer than four East Coast Catholic schools, I saw my friends’ last names everywhere. When I was at Georgetown, there were seven guys named Brendan Sullivan, two of them from Rhode Island. Most of my friends of Irish descent have been to the Emerald Isle at some time, often more than once. Norwegian Airlines will fly you nonstop from Providence to Cork for just about $350, and Boston-Dublin is practically a shuttle.
“They come over here,” John Murphy says, taking a gulp out of his Guinness, “and they say, ‘Oh, your name is Murphy. Do you know my Aunt Kathleen Murphy in Belfast?’ Which is way the hell and gone, ya know?”
But what I never knew is that the Irish also feel deeply attached to America. They fly to Boston, which Dingle folk say is the next parish west, though one ocean away. Also New York, Florida, and all up and down the east coast, visiting cousins or just curious.
The Irish in Ireland brag about the American Irish who made good in the new world: George Clooney, whose father was from Kilkenny, Tom Cruise, Meryl Streep, John C. Reilly, Christine Aguilera, and Mariah Carey. Muhammad Ali once visited here in Ennis, where one of his great-grandfathers came from. Our tour bus driver showed us the home of John P. Holland, inventor of an early submarine, which sank. Let us not forget Barack Obama, with ancestors from Moneygall, and of course the Kennedys, out of County Wexford.
Speaking of which, “Yer president’s an eejit,” said one of the chatty drunks I met in Dublin. “That last one, the black one, he wasn’t bad. But the best one, they shot him.” (Death is always right close here.) A more sober new acquaintance asked if perhaps there was a Kennedy who was now ready to run for the Democrats?
The Irish seem to actually love Americans. They will talk long and colorfully to anyone, but they seem to seek us out as though we were bright and shiny objects. They feel as if we’re all cousins. Maybe we are.
“Ya fra Murka?” asked a wobbly fellow in a pub where we stopped for coffee. After we figured that out, we acknowledged we were. “Wherena Murka?” he asked. “Oregon,” we said. Head scratching.
“Donnear Texas, izit?”
No, no, West Coast.
“Oh! Well, I got me a niece in Long Island. Kathleen Moriarty. Ya know her?”
Jim Petersen said:
What a great writer, you are no “eejit.”
Didn’t write this meself. Just quoted the melodic locals.
Marcia Boyd said:
So true !!! Being 100% Irish, As Louise has heard many times, I actually found our Boyd relatives in County Roscommon in a small crossroads called Fuerty. They still live on the same farmland left by some of my ancestors during the famine to find a new life in MA and RI. Poorest county in Eire and not frequented by tourists. Roscommon offers the Strokestown Famine Museum in an old manor house – talk about depressing – which ironically offers an excellent restaurant with memorable lamb stew.
For your next visit Louise and Tom.
Sorry if this is too long for this format and too off topic for this wonderful blog – but for my ancestors I will share anyway and everyone can speed read or skip over –
The story for those with interest (maybe those with Irish roots) all we knew was the place name of “Fuerty” from my dad who remembered it from when his dad went back to visit in early 1900s. So several years ago when I got to the City of Roscommon in County Roscommon I asked and was given directions to Fuerty – turns out its a crossroads and nothing is there but an old church in ruins and, most significantly, a graveyard. With old falling down and new shiny gravestones with the name Boyd. So we asked some workers there doing restoration and they told us where to find the Boyds – down the road and right at the pub in Castlecote then left at the pond and bog.
Found the new comfortable houses they had built on the farmland next to the old thatch roofed cottage their parents did not want to leave. And now they have been visited by at least 6 sets of cousins from America. We all have the same photos of the old farm and old cottages and new cousins with traditional Irish names. The kids are learning Irish in school . Last contact was in about 1915.
And the image of our family leaving there to escape the awful famine and, I must add, historic hatred of the English.
BTW the workers restoring the old stone walls and cemetery grounds were working under a European Union historic restoration grant program !!
Also from the EU – ask there about the sheep – farmers are paid for raising sheep by the head so evidently there is a great interest in Ireland in moving the sheep around in the night to increase numbers for the next days census at a neighboring farm. Just rumor of course !!!
Again sorry for the length but I find this to be the essence of the Irish story and some wine has encouraged me to share all of this here.
Can you tell I want to be there too ???
Mary Cummings said:
Part of my family was also from Roscommon. The Walshes. Very poor farmers, of course. A great great uncle died in a “workhouse”. We all have stories. Love yours, Marsha!
Mary Cummings said:
Of course, I meant “Marcia.!”
I want to hear more about that.
Thank you for sharing that, Marcia! This sheep business might be why they are now all marked by a spot of flourescent spray paint to distinguish their owners……….
Marcia Boyd said:
Yes maybe the EU finally realized they had been outsmarted by the indomitable Irish !! Isn’t that a hilarious story ? Its also featured in an episode of one of those BBC shows set in Ireland.
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