Oh, to be in Ireland on St. Patrick’s Day, or any other for that matter

Published 2:39 pm Thursday, March 15, 2007

I can’t help but think of Ireland at this time of year, with St. Patrick’s Day right around the corner. As I write this, I’m even wearing a hat that we bought at Kinsale, Ireland, the most beautiful sail harbor I believe I have ever seen.

The hat is one of those flat ones similar to those associated with golfers, though I am a fisherman and not a golfer. I say similar because here in the States the hats are more elongated and constructed somewhat differently. The one I have I believe isn’t really exclusive to Ireland, though it is associated with the Irish. I have seen hats of the same construction worn by European peasants from every land in photographs taken at Ellis Island.

One year Genie and I will be in Ireland on St. Patrick’s Day, though I don’t know when yet. Genie, the family travel agent, says it is more expensive to go there around St. Patrick’s Day because that is the beginning of the tourist season there.

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I can understand that, but every Irishman, even one whose family arrived in what is now South Carolina of the United States sometime in the middle 1700s, wants to be in Ireland for St. Patrick’s Day once in his life.

My brother-in-law, who is a Kennedy but not of the John Kennedy branch though likely kin through common ancestors in Ireland, has been there on St. Patrick’s Day. He marched in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Dublin some years ago. I understand his wife was mortified because he had maybe a pint of Guinness or two too many.

I think when Genie and I go, we will stick to our old haunts in the West of Ireland. Her family is from the environs of Galway, mine from the Castletownbere-Hungry Hill part of County Cork.

We have been both places, to Galway all three times we have visited and to Castletownbere the last time we were there. We need to return to Castletownbere because many of the photographs we took there apparently were fogged by X-rays when we came through security on the way home. Now we have a digital camera and hopefully that won’t happen again.

Ireland, if you’ve never been there, is absolutely beautiful. Those who talk about it being green aren’t kidding. That is very apparent when you are flying in either to Dublin or Shannon. I have read that there are more than 40 shades of green in the foliage of Ireland. I wouldn’t have guessed so few.

The post cards with sheep blocking a narrow, winding country road with the term “Irish traffic jam” at the bottom aren’t a joke, either. You can travel some larger highways, some divided like our interstates and others just two wide lanes where you are unlikely to run into a flock of sheep. I prefer the back country roads, though, as long as I don’t get too lost.

Yes, I do my own driving over there. It is a little hair-raising until you grow accustomed to driving on the left-hand side. The round-a-bouts, in my opinion, are absolutely one of the best ideas that I have ever seen for keeping traffic moving through intersections.

I don’t drive at night when we go out to restaurants or pubs. Hackneys are inexpensive and for all their reputation for drinking, the Irish are death on people who drive a little tipsy.

Most of all, I miss the Irish people. They are the friendliest and most helpful in the world. You can get lost, but you can’t stay lost. Anyone you meet is happy to help with directions. They may not know the way to your final destination, but they can get you to a main road and a location where someone who knows the way can help you.

Another thing you will notice when there, if you are Irish, is that all the Irish you see look like someone you know back home. I don’t know why that is, but it’s true.

When I go back the next time, be it over a St. Patrick’s Day or at some other time, I’m carrying my fly rod. I plan to do some fishing. There is water everywhere and I am assured that all of it holds fish. What more of an invitation does a fisherman need?

If I were a golfer, I definitely would take my clubs. There must be more golf courses per capita in Ireland than any other place in the world, and all that I have seen were very beautiful, far more beautiful than even the best manicured courses I have driven by here in the States. I believe it’s the greens again, as in the color green and its various hues.

Genie and I have promised each other that when we retire, if ever we do retire, that we will spend a year in Ireland really getting to know the land of our ancestors.

Ah, yes, oh to be in Ireland on St. Patrick’s Day … one day.