|The girls will probably kill me for posting this picture but|
I held my camera on for over an hour just to get this picture of them arriving and then it turned out blurry!
We had to leave early the next morning for Ireland. Somehow we all managed to get out of the house by 5:00 AM (with Joe's gentle urging) and off to the airport for our cheap quickie flight on Ryanair to Dublin.
We were only in Dublin for the day as we planned to drive to southern Ireland for our next three days. We tried to make the best of our day with the Hop On/Hop Off giving us an overview of the city. We did take time to tour the Kilmainham Gaol. It is one of the oldest unused prisons in Europe, built in 1792. I found it fascinating. The tour took us through old, old, cement cells where prisoners were held. These included men, women and children. The youngest known prisoner was a seven year old boy. The cells were COLD and dark and of course not heated. Cathy and I loved touching the walls, just imagining how many sad sad people had touched those same walls years ago. There was overcrowding and the prisoners were not segregated so all were thrown in cells together. The tour guide talked about the famine in Ireland and how some people committed crimes to get into jail as they were at least given bread and water and would not die of starvation.
|Door to cell block in old building.|
|Entering a hall of cells|
|What a horrible feeling to have this locked behind you!|
There were some famous people in Irish history who were jailed in those walls. Charles Stewart Parnell was one of the most important men in Ireland in the 19th century. As a Member of Parliament he led the Parliamentary Party through a period of nationalism in Ireland between 1875 and his death in 1891. He fought for the poor people of Ireland making trips to the U.S. and Canada to raise funds for famine relief. One of his biggest causes were for the poor land tenants who worked on landowners farms with little or no land rights. He also felt strongly that if Ireland were allowed to be independent from British rule that many of their problems could be solved. He was imprisoned for nearly a year (with his party lieutenants) for opposing the Irish Land Act, a law written by a British Prime Minister and passed by the House of Parliament. He is still to this day considered a hero in Irish history and some even call him the "uncrowned King of Ireland".
One other reason for our interest in Charles Parnell. Our friend Cathy's maiden name is Parnell. While she has not traced her history (yet), we had great fun telling people during our Ireland trip what her maiden name was. We never failed to get a reaction. One man who owned a bakery and came out to talk to us bowed down to Cathy with his hands raised over his head as if he were bowing to a God. Cathy's family is Irish and her mother has been to Ireland a couple of times. I think someone in her family ought to trace their roots. Who knows, maybe they are descendants from THE Charles Parnell!
|Charles Parnell's cell|
Another interesting story from the Gaol was what was known as the Easter Rising in 1916. This was a famous rebellion mounted by Irish Republicans trying to end British rule and establish the Irish Republic. There were several groups that made up the Irish Republican Brotherhood, its counterpart in the US was called the Fenian Brotherhood. Later the members were just referred to as the Fenians. The rising lasted the whole week of Easter in 1916. The fighting took place mostly in Dublin by the members of the Irish Republicans and other splinter groups and volunteers. The rising was suppressed after seven days of fighting and the leaders were court-martialled and executed.
Joseph Plunkett was one of the leaders of the Easter Rising and many of the plans that were followed came from him. He was to marry his sweetheart Grace Gifford (another republican sympathizer) after the uprising. When Joseph (age 28) was arrested and set to be executed, Grace showed up at the Kilmainham Gaol wanting to go on with the wedding ceremony before he died. They were allowed to marry there and had 10 minutes of privacy before Joseph was taken out and executed by a firing squad in the prison yard.
Over the years many republicans were arrested and incarcerated in jail without trials or charges. Grace was arrested among others in February 1923 and detained in Kilmainham Gaol for about three months. She painted pictures on her cell walls while she was held there. I have taken photos of this cell among others.
|Grace Plunkett's cell and the artwork below that she painted on the inside walls.|
|The last wing built at the jail. This huge room of cells has been used in several prison movies.|
|Inside one of these cells|
|My feet on the cell block, because I can't believe I'm standing here!|
|The execution yard. The flag marks the spot where the executions|
took place. This was also the area where the prisoners were
forced to hard labor breaking up large stones into gravel.
|This cross in the execution yard commemorates the Easter Rising of 1916.|
|The sign under this old scale said,|
"Food in the Victorian prison was weighed on scales as delicate as those of Justice herself."
|This is the front of the jail. The two small squares to the left and right above the window marks where|
they used to hang prisoners when a public hanging took place.
While riding on the tour bus around Dublin we saw the Guinness Brewery. Guinness signs were everywhere, as they have a huge presence in Dublin. Their advertising was in almost every single pub window you saw. We also saw ambulances driving by with Guinness emblazoned on the side. The tour guide said that Guinness has their own private hospital and ambulances that are free of charge for their employees. He also mentioned that Guinness retirees get their dinner free for life. He probably mentioned more but those are the only notes that I was able to take as the bus bumped along and he continued talking. It peaked my interest enough to look up the history of Guinness online to see about this unheard of philanthropy.
Guinness beer was developed in Ireland by a young entrepreneur named Arthur Guinness. In 1759 he signed a 9000 year lease (@ £45/year) for a four acre site to start his brewery business. Within ten years he was already exporting his beer to England. By the 1770's he had developed a new type of dark English beer and by 1799 he stopped making any other beer altogether. I found it interesting that he had 21 children by the same woman, although only ten survived to adulthood. There have been 6 generations of the Guinness family who continued to run the successful business, the last family member resigned in 1986.
Young Arthur was raised a Christian and was brought up that it was his God-given duty to help the poor and down trodden. He criticized the excesses of the upper class and sat on the board for a hospital for the poor. He was also the founder of the first Sunday school classes in Ireland. The legacy that Arthur and his family left over the past 250 years of running Guinness is a legacy of benevolence, as much as it is running a successful and thriving business.
A Guinness who headed the company during the 1800's said, "you cannot make money from people unless you are willing for people to make money from you." This was quite a farsighted sentiment for the industrial age, but it is an example of the Guinness mindset that gave them their legacy.
In the 1920's a worker at the brewery would enjoy round-the-clock care from doctors, nurses, dentists and home health workers. Retirees received pensions as a gift from the brewery (they did not have to pay towards it during their working years). These retirement benefits were extended to widows as well. Funeral expenses of employees and employee's family members were largely covered. The wages were 10 - 20 per cent higher than average. The company provided a savings bank on site and contributed to a fund that the employees could borrow from to buy houses. To make sure that life was as it should be in their homes, the company also sponsored competitions to encourage domestic skills with cash awards for sewing, cooking, decorating, gardening and hat making. There were clubs of all kinds including sports, raising poultry and other birds, a library, music, wood carving, sketching, photography etc. The educational opportunities were one of their best benefits. Guinness paid for all of their employees aged from 14 - 30 to go to technical school in Dublin. Each year every employee was paid to take his family into the country for a day. Train fare and money were provided for food and entertainment. On the Jubilee of Queen Victoria, Guinness gave every employee an extra week's salary.
One story tells of a member of the Guinness family who was given millions of dollars as a wedding gift, but then moved his bride into the slums to draw attention to the plight of the poor. Guinness also pledged to all of their employees who fought in World War I that they would be given their jobs back after the war and paid their families half wages until they did.
I would be remiss if I didn't tell you one more benefit for the workers. They were all allowed two pints of free Guinness every single day!
I searched to find examples of more recent years, but I could only find the information above, which is from the early 1900's. However the tour guide is the one who mentioned the benefits of Guinness employees today and I saw the ambulances so I have to assume that it still goes on today in some fashion.
|An ad in the Brazen Head Pub|
After riding the bus around most of the day we ended up in a pub called O'Shea's where we heard there was traditional Irish singing every night. We were not disappointed. It seems that the pubs in Ireland have a tradition of sing-a-longs featuring whoever brings their instruments and voices and joins in the group. They sing mostly Irish tunes that unfortunately we don't know the words, but we enjoyed it just the same. They even ask for requests from us. All I know are the songs on our Scotland CD and I was careful to ask for only the couple of Irish tunes that are on it. One, I can't remember the name of and had to sing part of it. To my embarrassment no one recognized it! (But a few days later at another pub they actually did recognize it, after I had to sing it again!)
|A BALTIMORE MARYLAND PLATE OF ALL THINGS!!|
|Look what we found on this wall in O'Shea's!|
I was amazed at the friendliness of all the people in the pubs. We made sure we went to a place popular with the locals, not the tourists. We were treated like royalty with many of the patrons coming up and starting conversations. Unfortunately for Joe, it seemed like all the men wanted to do was talk about American politics as soon as they found out we were Americans. He got tired of having to stick up for George Bush and other politicians. This was only in Ireland, he has not had this issue here in the UK. And they only did it with Joe, not with us girls. Funny! Had they known how into politics I am they would have surely bent my ear. But I was glad to remain out of those skirmishes!
We left O'Shea's pub and walked across the street to The Brazen Head, Ireland's oldest pub dating back to 1198! It is hard to imagine that the pub has been around that long. I don't know how much of the place is the original 11th century coach house, but there is a courtyard and three bars there now. The Irish are famous for their story telling and their gatherings at pubs. They lived so close together that sitting at home in the evenings was not the norm. The English couldn't understand how the Irish could be such happy folks, despite their poverty. But they had this social outlet that helped them immensely to enjoy life. They didn't have art, or architecture, but they had the gift of story telling and happiness. I can tell you it is still there today. They are such friendly people. I thoroughly enjoyed meeting them.
|The Brazen Head, oldest pub in Ireland|
|Just a neat looking building in Dublin|
The next morning we headed south. Our first stop was Limerick. It was about a three hour drive. We wanted to get there by 2:30 for an Angela's Ashes tour (Frank McCourt's best selling memoir) that I heard about online. The tour is given by an older gentleman every day of the week. We arrived at the tour office in Limerick at 2:00 and were disappointed to hear that his tour that day was a private tour that had been previously booked. As we were talking to the desk person he happened to come in. He saw our sad faces and agreed to give us our very own tour AFTER his private tour! He said he couldn't stand to turn anyone down, especially when we came from so far away. He was such a nice guy. He walked us outside and pointed out a castle that sat across the way. He suggested we tour it while we waited for him and agreed to take us around 5:00. That would give him time to do his private tour and ours before he had to be at his wood carving class at 7:00! A busy retiree!
Limerick was established by the Vikings in 812. The whole city was on an island on the River Shannon, (now called King's Island) and was a walled city. The Vikings fought various different clans to keep control of the city over the next couple of hundred years. But they were eventually reduced to the level of a minor clan. The Anglo-Normans arrived in 1172. But there was a political leader at that time, Domhnall Mor Obrien, who burnt the whole city to the ground to keep it from the new invaders. After he died in 1194 the Anglo-Normans took over the city. A castle was built on orders from King John of England in 1200. The castle still stands today, although the city walls are almost all gone.
|King's John Castle from the bridge in Limerick|
|Sarah, Cathy, Joe|
While the castle sits on the island with a few other administration buildings, Limerick is on the south banks of the River Shannon, just a stone's throw away. There was a cold wind coming off the water that day and then it started raining. I'm telling you it was cold too! The rain came down right after we got finished with the castle. We barely got back to the tourist office and were able to stay in there while the worst of the rain came down. Right before 5:00 when our tour started, the sun came out and it was beautiful again! We felt extremely lucky.
Our tour guide for the Angela's Ashes tour was an older gentleman named Noel Curtain. Sarah, Joe and I had all read Frank McCourt's books. Cathy hadn't (she said she doesn't like to read depressing things) but we all enjoyed the tour. It was clear that Noel loved giving the tours which of course leads to a more enjoyable experience. Many of the places that were in the book, Frank's home and such were not there anymore. Long ago torn down for newer, better buildings. But we were able to see the area, the churches, his school. For me, just walking on streets where history had taken place is a thrill.
The pictures below have captions telling you what part of McCourt's story they represent.
|Hartstonge Street, one of the streets Frank McCourt lived on.|
Of course housing tenements are gone now, but the area he lived in was called
"the lanes". These slums were the most crowded and poorest possible living areas
|Barrack Hill, another street Frank lived on. His house was one of a whole lane of|
houses that shared one common lavatory, which was located right outside their rented rooms.
|W.J. South. The pub where Frank's Uncle Pa Keating took|
him to have his first pint at the age of 16.
|The Franciscan Church|
This is where Frank went to pray for his first love who was ill with consumption.
She later died and he went to the priest for forgiveness for their sin of love making and was forgiven.
|Same church. This is the door that Frank's dad took him to to ask the parish clerk,|
Sacristan Stephen Carey, if Frank could be an altar boy. The man said,
'we don't have room for you'
and slammed the door in their face. The tour guide wondered if possibly his father
was drunk (as he so often was) at the time and offended the priest. Descendants
of the priest say that he would never have done anything like that.
|This is the park where Frank would watch the young, well off protestant|
girls play. He was so sad for them because they weren't Catholic so he knew
they were all going to go to Hell.
|St. Vincent de Paul Society.|
Where Frank's mother Angela had
to wait in line for charity (food).
|Frank McCourt's school, below, the bust of Frank outside|
the front of the school.
|The Leamy School from a distance.|
We ended up driving about an hour and a half to Tralee, which was located right outside of the Dingle Peninsula, where we wanted to head to the next day. We found a hotel that looked good and went in to get a room. The women that is. Sarah and Cathy had heard rumors about bed bugs in Europe so every hotel we had a little bed bug checking party on the mattresses before we agreed on the room. We never found any thank goodness. Patient Joe would wait in the car until we gave him the green light.
It was when we were at this hotel (rather than the larger one in Dublin) that we noticed that things are done a little differently in Ireland than we are accustomed to in the U.S. At least the smaller towns in Ireland. There was no one at the hotel desk so we went into the bar to ask about a room. Out from around the bar came the bartender to register us and so forth. We asked him about getting dinner. He said they weren't serving dinner this late (9:00!) and that we wouldn't find any restaurants or bars in the city that served that late either. Only ONE restaurant was open and it was the Chinese restaurant up the street! However, when we asked what time the his closed he said, "whatever time you all decide to leave"!
So, the hotel clerks double as bartenders, the food preparation only goes until 9:00 pm, but the bars stay open until the last customer leaves! Interesting. So that is how we ended up eating Chinese food in an Irish village and topped it off with drinks at the bar of our hotel. Wow. As was par for the course, Joe ended the evening in another conversation about politics with a chatty Irishman!
Before we left the town of Tralee the next morning, we walked up the street to a wonderful bakery and had pastries and scones for breakfast! The place was packed with locals so we knew it would be good. And of course it was! What a treat. Then we hopped in the car for our ride to scenic Dingle.
|A few snapshots of the ride to Dingle.|
|Signs in Gaelic and English|
There were all kinds of shops, art, music (Joe bought some Irish CD's), Irish sweaters (worn by everyone), crafts, purses, souvenirs, you name it. They were all along the narrow streets in brightly colored building fronts. We also bought several small paintings done by local artists of the Dingle area. We ate lunch in a place called "Murphy's" and had a great lunch among the locals.
Joe was shocked to see a man crossing the street wearing a Philadelphia Eagles hat! It happened to be the day after they had played the Redskins. Joe knew that they had played but didn't know the results. So he asked the guy how the game went. The guy responded by saying "we lost". Well, we were happy anyway! Joe thought that was such a small world.
|I am in all Sarah's pictures and she's in all mine. We were the only ones with the cameras!|
|The main street in town with the mountains in the background.|
|The harbor in Dingle|
The Dingle Peninsula goes out 30 miles into the Atlantic Ocean. There are mountains down the center of the peninsula with miles of coastline along the edge. The views were spectacular. The coastline changed from steep rocky cliffs that had sheer drops to the sea, to sandy beaches to waves that crashed onto rocky shores to grasslands that literally stopped at the ocean. The grasslands came complete with sheep grazing on them! Such a weird sensation to see grass growing right up to the ocean! And all this with NO buildings, parking lots, or anything that remotely resembles our idea of a beach area. There is one main road that takes you up around the peninsula. I say main road, but it was extremely narrow! There were small roads every once in a while that ran off of it, but all roads fed from the main one so traveling along it brought you round full circle. There were few houses along the way, mainly on the opposite side of the road from the beach, up on the mountain slopes. We all decided we'd love to live in one of those houses with the peaceful quiet and the breathtaking views...at least for a little while! There were a few pull-offs along the narrow road and we instructed Joe to pull off at each and every one so that we could take pictures. Usually there was no warning when one would be coming along so we didn't want to miss anything by him having to ask "do you want to stop here"?
Here are some of photos from the peninsula itself:
|Sarah went all out for her pictures. I didn't climb walls to take mine!|
We all really enjoyed our time in Dingle. I learned several things on this trip. Instead of so much driving, we probably should have stayed a couple days in Dublin and another couple days in one other town. We ended up spending a lot of time on the road. It worked out fine for us, and we chatted the whole time in the car, and saw lots of Ireland, but there are probably better ways it could have been done. One big thing I learned was that we could have flown into Dublin airport (like we did) and then flown out of Shannon airport which was in the southwest of Ireland, where we were. As it was, we had to drive back up to Dublin to catch our flight the next day.
One thing we noticed about the Irish. They don't travel much in their own country. Their country is only the size of Indiana. Of course it is an island so it has 3,000 miles of coastline. But most people stay very close to their town and villages and don't venture out to see other parts of the land. I met a local on our last night in a pub near Dublin. I told her that we had been in Dingle that day and she said she'd never been there! I was so surprised as Dingle is a very popular destination and even if it might be touristy at times, it is still a beautiful place to see. We heard that several times from people. They pretty much stayed put where they were.
As I mentioned above we wanted to get back in the Dublin area for the night so we set off from Dingle to a village right outside of Dublin called Naas. The drive took us about four hours. We went in and did the bartender/hotel clerk/bed bug check routine again. We dropped our stuff off and that's about the time we realized that we had managed to get into town late with the prospect of no restaurants open again!
Our bartender/desk clerk said they weren't serving any food but told us of a restaurant up the street that should still be serving food. Off we went on a trot to get to the restaurant before it closed! We passed a convenient mart, several closed restaurants and just as we got to what we thought was our destination they were putting the closed sign up! We hurriedly asked if there were anymore open places and were directed up the road a bit more. Practically running now we took off for the next open place. (You'd think we hadn't been fed for weeks!) One pub was not serving food (not even bar snack food, we were desperate enough to take that) and our last hope restaurant had just closed too! How could this happen again! And this time it didn't look like we would even get a Chinese place to go to! We turned back with sad faces and decided we would have to buy a sandwich at the convenience store. What a disappointment. We so looked forward to our meals out and the fun of eating with the Irish. When we finally dragged ourselves to the convenience mart it was all dark. In the 20 minutes or so that we had gone up to find restaurants, it had also closed! This just wasn't funny anymore. We all looked across the street at the gas station that had a little store in it and sadly realized that this was going to be dinner. So we went in and picked out a few items and took them across the street to our hotel bar and had our little gas station meal at one of the tables there. How pathetic are we? We let that happen to us not once, but twice in our three nights in Ireland!
There was one highlight of that night though. Our hotel bar had a great group of folks who were singing that night. They had two or three guitars, one fiddle, a flute and a drum and a nice selection of singers. One guy was quite a character that kept us entertained. They loved having Americans in their audience and treated us to some American tunes too. It was such an enjoyable evening. Sarah went to bed first, followed a little while later by Cathy but Joe and I ended up staying until we were the last patrons there. They played for the two of us for about an hour until they had to go around 1:00 am. I even got them to sing Danny Boy, something no one seems to want to sing because it goes so high. They did miss a couple of the high notes, but I still loved it.
That pretty much ended our Ireland trip. We left the next morning for Dublin airport and flew back to our home in England. I will write about our London excursion in my next blog.
I can't end this blog without a mention of the wonderful man that I married. He basically put up with three wives yacking and cackling at him while being trapped in a car with us for four days without one complaint! He was great company, an excellent driver and patient as a saint when we were shopping and running around. Cathy and Sarah marveled at his patience over and over again. They both said that their men wouldn't have lasted five minutes with us!
Love you Joe!