Anne Driscoll continues her rambles around Ireland, sharing cultural nuances and observations as she adapts to life in her new home. And so let me hand you over to Anne ....
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Three Years In Ireland
It’s exactly three years and ten months since I first arrived in Ireland and in the last month, I saw my first rainbow at night. It was a full moon evening and there was a rainbow arc stretched across the sky.
In another first, my currach teammate gave me Spotted Dick to sample. She told me it’s a dense cake-like pudding that is very popular in the UK. She explained the spots are raisins. I am not sure what the dick part is but it was definitely delicious.
Fishing For Glasses
On a sunny day when we were going out fishing for an afternoon, and just as we were climbing onto the wooden currach, the Irishman’s friend noticed what he thought were the Irishman’s eyeglasses five feet below stuck in the muck.
The friend retrieved from his house a small rake and a pole to tape to it as an extension. He managed to dig the glasses out and, once washed, they were as good as new - which is not too surprising since they actually were brand new when the Irishman had lost them at the end of the pier six weeks before.
St Macdara's Island
On July 16th, I went to St. Macdara’s Island for an annual festival in honor of St. Macdara held at the site of the church he founded back in the 6th century.
It is the one day of the year that boats are organized to bring pilgrims to the island, where boys chase sheep, families have picnics, the priest says mass and the Galway hookers gracing the waters lower their sails as they pass.
Hundreds of people make the journey and many are local seafaring families, who either fish or cut seaweed and seek the priest’s blessing on the day.
We saw a carved standing rock that some people believe marks St. Macdara’s grave and there is also St. Macdara’s holy well, which is now overgrown and hard to find.
But there is a supposedly true story told in the book Miracle of an Enchanted Island about a blind boy who was shipwrecked with his dog Sailor on St. Macdara’s island and regains his sight when the dog laps water from the holy well and then laps the boy’s eyes and face. The book was written by a man who was 8 when told the story by his grandmother, and she, in turn, was a little girl when told the story by her grandmother.
Doonbeg, County Clare
I went to the final currach race of the league season in Doonbeg, a beautiful little coastal town where Trump has built a golf course and hotel suggestive of a castle.
Doonbeg is far better known, however, for the actual Doonbeg castle there that dates back more than 1000 years.
The Doonbeg castle is visible as you approach the pier but, ironically, so was a huge green bouncy castle, too, that had been hastily erected to amuse the kids.
We won the three woman’s race, giving us the best record of the women’s teams in the league and we were truly chuffed.
The following night, we appeared on RTE’s final episode of Creedon’s Shannon which traced TV presenter John Creedon’s trek down the River Shannon, ending in a Shannon hooker at a currach regatta we raced in on the Shannon estuary of Kilbaha bay.
The village turned out for a standing room only screening at the community center to welcome Sean Mannion, the hero boxer featured in the film Rocky Ros Muc.
There was a bonfire lit on the pond across from the hall to hail him home to this tightknit Gaeltacht community, much the same as was done when he first returned from Boston after losing a fight for world title crown in 1984. The film is a testament to the all too common tale of emigration and homecomings and there were plenty of teary moments.
Galway Film Festival
The next night I went to the Galway Film Festival screening of the short film Native, starring Patrick Bergin and directed by Linda Bhreathnach, whose parents own a local pub/shop.
It, too, is a testament story of emigration and homecoming – told without a single word of English or Irish – about a man who returns after a prolonged absence to his abandoned home on an island off an island only to find his house derelict and any family or friends he might have once had, long gone.
Native was filmed on the tiny island inhabited by one sole resident and accessible only twice a day that I happened to visit last month.
That night I returned to Galway to see Linda Bhreathnach star in a play DÚN na mBAN TRÍ THINE (The Fairy Fort is on Fire) about a woman trying to balance being a wife, mother and artist and who dreams of fulfillment but has nightmares of menacing fairies that want to snatch her life and sanity from her. The play was performed in Irish but also, thankfully, had English subtitles.
Shep, The Sheep Dog
And two days ago, Shep, the sheep dog arrived. A year old, quiet, calm, cuddly with a black and white body and brown eyebrows, he was a failed sheep dog, but has already saved the life of an 8-year-old boy who went underwater and Shep swam out to bring him in.
And now that I have him, I remembered back decades ago to my first dog Erin, a Brittany mix whose fluffy coat and soft face often reminded me of the black and white photos I would see of Irishmen in caps sitting on stone walls with their sheep dogs.
Even back then, when I would dare to dream of a life in Ireland, I didn't really dream of a life in Dublin (as much as I have loved my time there).
I imagined a life in a village very much like the one I live in now with views similar to what I see every day and a sheepdog very much like the one laying next to me as I write this blog post. I am so incredibly blessed.
I heard a story this month about a visitor to Ireland who was advised, “Don’t stay in this country long, it will catch you.” However, I think it’s far too late for me; I have already been caught.
The day before I posted this, my friend Trish asked if Shep was going to make the blog this month. I said, “Of course.” She joked, “That’s why I hate him,” thinking Shep would steal the limelight from her, but this post script is my way of making sure she is included in this month’s blog. There you go, Trish.
How To Follow Anne's Adventures
You can check out more of Anne’s writings on her website, or follow her on Twitter.
If you enjoyed this blog post, check out Anne Driscoll’s mini-memoir series, beginning with Irish You Were Here: My Year of Matchmaking Festivals, Fairy Forts and Mugging My Mugger in Ireland.
Irish You Were Here is for both the armchair traveler and active adventurer, the dreamers and the daredevils, the writers, poets and storytellers, and all the activists out there lead by their passions.
This is an Ireland you won’t read about in tour guides and it’s one you won’t soon forget. It’s for everyone who is Irish and for anyone who wished they were.
You can find Irish You Were Here at Amazon Kindle here.
A big thank you to Anne for another update on her Irish adventures. So lovely to hear how much she is enjoying and embracing life in Ireland.
If you're interested in other books set in Ireland or featuring the Irish in America, here are a few more recommendations to check out...
Thanks for following my recipes and ramblings.
Slán agus beannacht,
(Goodbye and blessings)
Mairéad -Irish American Mom
Pronunciation - slawn ah-gus ban-ock-th
Mairéad - rhymes with parade
Here are some other posts you might enjoy..
What I Miss About Ireland - Swans
A Tribute To An Irish American Mom
How fun, Anne, are your tales of life in the next parish over!
From Aunt Bessie's treat ( 😉 ) to St. Macdara's Island, with Shep as the star of your tales (and, of course, Trish!)...thank you, Anne and Mairead*! God bless each of you!
Shep is absolutely beautiful!
Irish American Mom
Hi Irishnannie - I too love Anne's tales from across the pond, or as you so eloquently put it, the next parish over. Shep is delightful, but I'm sure he is full of energy. Lots of long walks along the coast from now on, Anne.
All the best,