Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Emerald Isle

Text: “The Boy Travellers in: Great Britain and Ireland” by Thomas Knox, Harper and Brothers, 1891.

On American Travelers, page 2: “They are in a hurry to get to London, and determine that they will see Ireland on their way home…but they longer so long on the continent and in England that they have no time to stop on the way home; and that’s the way Ireland is neglected by the Americans.”
"Why is Ireland the richest country in the world? Because its capital is Dublin every day." :)

 We sailed from New York directly to the port of Queenstown, in the Cove of Cork, in Ireland.  The journey was less than luxurious, and marked by heavy rainstorms, but as The Boy Travellers pointed out, “the frequent and copious rains gave the hills of Ireland the beautiful green that greeted [our] eyes.” (Pg 4) We were more eager to reach the Emerald Isle and continue our sightseeing than to waste time being bothered by the rain, so we spent the steamship journey talking to passengers about their own voyages and gaining a wealth of knowledge and invitations to dinner by wealthy English businessmen.  We promised to call on a few gentlemen when we reached London, but wished to explore those green hills and cliffs of Ireland first.

Blarney Castle, site of the famous Blarney Stone near Cork, Ireland
 After landing in Queenstown, the typical route to Dublin crosses right through the city of Cork and the village of Blarney, which is a huge tourist destination thanks to the poetry of Father Prout, who wrote: “There’s a stone there that whoe’er kisses, sure he ne’er misses/To become iloquint.”  Nowadays, tourists from miles around come to kiss the Blarney stone in hopes that they will win the gift of words.  We were no exception to the superstition, and leaned in to the fragment of the Blarney stone—“not the real one, which is in the wall of the building many feet from the ground, and can only be reached by the lips of a person who is suspended by his heels from the top of the castle four or five feet above.” (Pg 13) and planted a humorous kiss on the cool granite.  For the truly adventurous, it is possible to climb to the top of the castle and reach the true stone, but it does trigger a fear of heights and is not for everybody. I have yet to notice any impact on my ways of speech, but perhaps the skill takes a few days to acquire. 

Lakes of Killarney, some of the beautiful scenery of Ireland.
From pg 21 of The Boy Travellers.
The Irish countryside, which we traveled thoroughly, is full of ancient and crumbling castles, abbeys, monasteries, and the like.  In addition to the rich human history, it is also a beautiful country of waterfalls, lakes, and the famous mountainous cliffs.  I was in awe at the richness of the shades of greens, blues, and browns that cover this country.  Many of the lakes and falls reminded me of our visit to the Yosemite valley, though the air here has a much more distinctive chill, and the sense of rain is almost constant, as if a light mist continually sprays without any particular accumulation o water.  We spent our time in the Irish countryside in a perpetual state of dampness, but it was worth it for the lush vegetation in which we were surrounded.  It is hard to believe that only a few decades ago this entire landscape was devastated by drought and famine.  The environment seems very healthy for potatoes and other crops. 

Man from Limerick
county, from
The Boy Travellers
The Irish people are very proud of their ancestry and roots.  Even the poorest, smallest children can stand up proudly and recite the occupation of their grandfathers.  Tempers run high between families, and the local pubs are always a raucous celebration or argument of familial pride.  We frequented these pubs in the crowded, dirty, but proud neighborhoods of poor Dublin.  To see the true life of the people is the most important goal of this journey. 

My family hails from Limerick, which we saw on our country drives, and when my name was mentioned at the pub there the patrons burst into roars of acceptance and treated us like family for the rest of our stay. I could have stayed there with my new family for days, but we’ve got a whole world to see.  The green hills, clear lakes, and proud people of Ireland will not be forgotten.

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