Saturday, September 23, 2023

Ireland Recap

Dublin Bay and the Irish Sea above Howth outside Dublin

So I've been meaning to get this post out for a couple weeks. Teased it a bit before I left for Ireland but haven't had the time to put my thoughts together about it. I don't want to make this just some sort of "What I did on my vacation" post, but that's sort of inevitable since I did go on vacation, and that is what I'm writing about.  I've always felt a bit of a connection to Ireland since my Great Grandparents emigrated from there at the end of the 19th century, my skin and freckles clearly show that tie, and because I can speak with a credible Irish brogue.  It really was a great trip, not only to celebrate our 30th anniversary, but to visit some family in Dublin, and to see the incredible beauty that Ireland has to offer.  Of course we saw all the main tourist attractions on our 13 days in the country, including the Cliffs of Moher (stunning), some semi-famous beer place (for strength), the city of Galway (cool college town), St Patrick's Cathedral, and plenty of pubs in Dublin and elsewhere.  The thing about St Patrick's Cathedral*, which was on my list of must-see places and where I wanted to attend mass, is that it's not a Catholic church!  I thought to myself, what could be more Irish Catholic than St. Pat's in Dublin?  But nope- the Brits have it.  Apparently it was Catholic from its start in 1191, but has been an Anglican cathedral since 1870.  This goes back to when Catholicism was almost outlawed in the country and many Catholic churches were co-opted by the Church of England.  Catholic churches were also not allowed in any of the big towns.  Once that restriction was lifted, they still weren't allowed on the main streets. The Catholic cathedral in Dublin is actually on a back street and it's really nothing to look at.  It's sort of in a state of disrepair, and there were some homeless types hanging out on the front steps.  In fact the steps were gated off to prevent loitering and not really accessible.  When we walked by it was outside of mass times so the whole place was locked off anyway.  That brings me to something else I wanted to mention, about how England has been a thorn in the side of the Irish throughout history,  and in the opinion of several Irish we spoke to, remains so today.  I knew about "The Troubles," and Ireland's fight for independence, but learned that their struggle continues today, although less violently.

Here's where I wanted to post a video to depict the troubles, but Blogger is being a feckin arsehole so click here.  It let me add the one at the end, but Blogger is a moody sumbich.

St. Patrick's Cathedral

          St. Mary's Cathedral Dublin (Source)

While England had their boot on the neck of the Irish for many many years, they still keep close hold on Northern Ireland.  Yes, it's a separate country, but one that should probably be united with the rest of the nation for a few reasons; those are genetically, geographically, and principally.  While some residents of N. Ireland consider themselves British, the majority say they're Irish, and the majority are Catholic.  Geographically they are one nation as well.  One could argue that Wales should clearly be part of the UK, and Scotland too, seeing how they are both part of a contiguous continent (Great Britain), but Ireland?  Not so much.  The sun set on the British Empire long ago, but they maintain a tight grip on what's left.  In Northern Ireland, the Protestants are not the majority, and Sinn Féin, the political arm of the IRA that is now peaceful, have the majority in their Parliament and they still push for independence.  It may happen in my lifetime, but my wife's family there is not so confident.  They hope it will happen during their children's lifetime though.  It won't be a violent fight for independence, but it will likely be achieved through referendum and the political process.  Apparently, England would like to be free of Northern Ireland as it costs the UK quite a bit to administer and Brexit messed things up.  However, there are diehards up there that wish to remain part of the UK, and they even consider themselves English, as opposed to their Irish blood.

In that last post I mentioned a football game- Navy vs. Notre Dame.  There was a huge block party for the fans on Dame Street in Temple Bar, Dublin.  Every shop had ND signage and were clearly catering to those who traveled over.  The ND band and cheerleaders even showed up.   

I was fortunate to get tickets to see Navy play Notre Dame, which was fun, despite it being a severely one-sided affair.  See the history section at the link if you want more info.  There was even a 4-ship flyover of some Ospreys.  Not sure where they came from though.  It's more of a friendly scrimmage than a fierce rivalry.  Notre Dame showed up with 40,000 fans.  I'm not sure there were too many people from Ireland there, but many thousands of Irish descent of course.  Navy had their fans, but not nearly as many.  My wife wasn't all that interested so I brought her cousin's husband.  He doesn't know a lot about American Football, but he is a big sports fan, and saw the Bears play at Soldier field back in the 80s.  It has been played 3 times in Dublin, and is always considered a home game for Notre Dame. Throughout the two weeks there we saw countless Notre Dame fans sporting their clothing with ND prominently displayed. We didn't see too many Navy fans, although there were a couple on our tour which started the next day.

    Me and Stan

While the game was in Aviva stadium, Dublin's other stadium, Croke Park was visited briefly, actually only a drive-by, which is where the Sunday Massacre (Sunday Bloody Sunday) occurred.  It's far bigger than it was back in 1923, but that day still figures prominently in the minds of the Irish.  One of the highlights of the trip was spending time with my wife's cousin and her family.  They are big into sports, as are many others in Ireland, and their daughter even plays on the Irish National Gaelic Football team.  During COVID when all the pubs were closed, but outdoor sporting events were still scheduled, they were unable to watch their teams play.  Undaunted, they built a pub in their backyard.  It was once just a storage room or office, but when pubs started closing down due to lack of business, they were able to pick up plenty of pub furniture and equipment, including a gigantic TV screen, all which helped them build their own.  That was the place I poured my first Guinness, impressing Stan whose own pour wasn't as good.

My first Guinness on the island

Mindi and Cora, my wife's cousin

They say that Guinness taste better in Ireland, and that is no myth. I am not a big Guinness fan, although drinking it there seem to help me enjoy it all the more. I taste tested some back here and it's just not the same. The Guinness tour was a lot of fun. I learned that Sir John Guinness was very forward thinking, even negotiating a 9,000 year lease on the property.


Guinness's Harp (left) and Trinity College's Harp (Ireland's Harp) (right)

That Harp has always been considered the symbol of Ireland, but it wasn't modernized and officially registered until 1984, facing opposite of the Guinness Logo to avoid any copyright infringement.  I would have thought that the most Guinness is brewed and drank in Ireland, but it turns out Nigeria consumes more (UK and Cameroon at the top and bottom of this short list with the US at #2).  Part of the exhibit at the factory, which is primarily a museum to the history of the brew, showed commercials from around the world, and from that you can tell they are heavily invested in Africa.  I also learned that the Guinness family is quite charitable, with lots of college scholarships funded, and other philanthropic activities that date back to its early days, including homes and transportation for its workers, good pay and benefits, land and parks donated back to the city, and more.  The gift shop was huge, fun to go through, and it took some of my money (2 new pint glasses!)

It was an 8 day (10 with the first evening and last breakfast) coach bus tour from Collette.  While I was encouraged by others to save the money and do it myself, leaving the driving to a professional for the first trip allowed us to relax, have everything pre-planned and taken care of, and see the countryside which I wouldn't necessarily been able to do driving on the left on narrow roads.

Trinity College, the Book of Kells, Limerick, the Waterford Crystal Factory (2 new bourbon glasses!), Kilkenny (great pubs), Killarney (more great pubs), the Ring of Kerry, were some sites we experienced.  The pubs are wonderful.  I mentioned them in my last post, but they are an institution there.  I never go to bars here, but there it's just different.  

Cliffs of Moher

My new doggie friend who had just finished running some sheep around.

The Irish Countryside along the Ring of Kerry

At Kilbeggan's Distillery

Inside St. Pat's

Inside the Long Room at Trinity College, the ancient library where that harp is.

A wee Irish Couple**

Cabra Castle where we spent our last night

The Itinerary

All in all, an outstanding trip to a beautiful country.  And we promised ourselves and her cousin that we'd visit again.  We'll probably do it on our own though, maybe spending time in N. Ireland next go-round, and visit Edinburgh since I am Scottish.  Emphasis on the ish

*There's another St. Pat's Cathedral, one that is Catholic, but it's in Armagh in N. Ireland of all places.

**Her maiden name is Fahey (Fahy in Ireland) and her ancestors were from Galway.  My family were Feeney which hailed from that green blob.  Ancestry declares me as 90% Irish, 9% Scot, and 1% Finn and Eastern European.


  1. Great post, absolutely brilliant! Some excellent scenery, some excellent history, you've outdone yourself lad!

    1. Thanks Sarge! I never delve into history too much, since I'm not a reader of it, but I feel connected to the history of the Irish.

  2. 1% from the way back Viking visitors... The Scandinavian in my history was a surprise, I guess it really shouldn't have been.
    It looks like you had a great time!

    1. I'm 2 weeks back, but still on a high from it.

  3. Very nice. And to think, Mrs. Andrew and I just watched "The Quiet Man" a few days ago.

    My MIL visited her illegal immigrant son in Northern Ireland one year. Funny how all the pictures of the British soldiers were overexposed and the negatives ruined...

    Glad you had a wonderful time. I miss travelling. But I can do it through you all.

    1. We watched Michael Collins one of the first nights. It was a perfect start.

  4. Tuna,
    Great post, fabulous pictures! I think I'm half Irish (isn't everybody?) in that my maternal Grandfather and paternal Grandmother were Irish. And since Mrs. J's maiden name is Murphy...Well...Guess we need to take a similar journey.
    Thanks, I needed that break.

    1. There are many more. I'll send a few your way.

  5. Outstanding post Tuna! Visuals enhance the commentary.

  6. Thanks for the trip Tuna. Enjoyed it. We’ll never go there so everything’s to learn here are the beach. “Ancestry” says I’m 30 Irish, 20 Scottish and the rest German (for anal piloting). American all the way, but having a taste for Guinness.

    1. It was fun to write about it and relive it again!

  7. My wife and I made the same mistake with St. Pat’s on a visit a few years ago. Popped in for a mass and everything was fine until we came to the Lord’s Prayer which has an alternative ending in Protestant. High Church C of E is very similar to the Vatican version.

  8. I think they get that a lot, as a lady at the entrance said to us, without prompting, that it was an Anglican service as we walked in.

  9. Delightful travelogue and history lesson. Great photos, too, and it makes me want to go, although my dislike for aviating under any circumstances probably precludes fulfilling that desire.
    John Blackshoe

  10. Nice set of falsehoods about the Troubles and Northern Ireland. How do I know? I lived there for the first half of my life.
    It's impossible to find any one unbiased person or book on it so I would recommend reading widely from books by Tim Pat Collins to 'The RUC, a force under fire' and 'Making Sense of the Troubles: A History of the Northern Ireland Conflict'.

    1. As to who I am, I'm someone who lived through the Troubles, someone whos father was on an IRA hit list because his company sold building materials to the Government and the Crown. It's interesting living in a house where the doors and windows have armoured glass! Someone who lost family to the IRA (google Abercorn bombing', someone who has seen bombings and seen and smelt the aftermath. In my last years at school, we were a virtual blood bank, being near a blood doning center. We got an idea of how bad an incident had been when the tannoy would announce 'Will anyone who hasn't given blood in the last 72 hours assemble at...'.
      I have found that the further people were from the Troubles, the deeper they bought into the mythological struggle for 'the Cause' be it on one side or the other.
      That's who I am and perhaps you now understand better where my comments come from. Now, disagree with me, ban me or accept that my experience is not that of the fools who glamorise murder, maiming and criminality. It will not change what happened.

    2. I wasn't questioning your experiences, just wanted to know who you were. Now I understand where your comments come from, that's all I wanted. Thanks for coming back and answering the question, I always want to know where both sides are coming from.

    3. While I don't have as direct an experience as BadFrog, I have to endorse what he said. My late ex-wife was from Northern Ireland. She was born and raised there. She considered herself a Briton. Her late father was a Church of Ireland (Anglican Church in Ireland) Priest. The family was neither pro-Protestant nor pro-Catholic. I got a good education in "The Troubles". From that, I found neither side has clean hands in it. And the people in the Republic as well as the North have biased views. It is a delicate subject.

    4. OldAFSarge, thank you for your courteous reply. Some of the best fiction based around truth are the books by Gerald Seymour, 'Harrys Game' , 'The Glory Boys', 'Field of Blood' and 'The Journeyman Taylor'. They capture the feel and uncertainty of those times without any glorification of any side. Stay well.

  11. Tuna, Galway is a great university town - I went to school for a semester at the University College of Galway in the fall of 1989. It was pretty magical - I learned to build both peat and coal fires in a fire place (an obscure skill, but you never know).

    I got to most of the major cities in the Republic and Derry and Belfast in Northern Ireland. Oddly enough, I think my favorite was the smaller town of Donegal, which is largely off the major beaten tourist path (or was, anyway).

    The Guinness in Ireland is different than everywhere else. Once you have it there, it really does ruin for you anywhere else.

    Thank you for taking us on your trip with you!

  12. Growing up on the Irish Riviera (The seacoast south of Boston), everyone knows where everyone's family was from in Ireland, 3+ generations out. The town I grew up in was 96% of Irish descent. In the early-mid 90's we could drink at certain bars in South Boston while under 21 if we put enough ammo money for the IRA in the bouncer's hat. I'm just a shade too young to have worked on the fishing boats that used to do gun runs on George's Bank. That ended as a widespread practice right as I turned 18 and started fishing offshore more.


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