When someone mentions Ireland, what do you think of? Green countryside? Red-hair? Celtic dancers? Potatoes?
I’ve just completed a 14 day trip with CIE Tours that included Northern Ireland in addition to the Republic of Ireland and what will I recall the most? The storytelling and humor, no question. The line between the two is often blurred, and Irish whiskey is only occasionally involved.
The stories, emotional but also humorously uplifting, and the jokes, casual and natural, captured my attention soon after I met Brian, our tour guide.
“Gray is the new blonde.”
Of course we saw breathtaking scenery and enjoyed a nip or two of Irish whiskey and Guinness. Sheep are everywhere, but redheads, not so much. The history of this island can be described as turbulent, with unkept promises, but as of now, there is peace between the two countries. And we heard Celtic music and sat mesmerized by the dancing. Lots of music and dancing.
“It’s estimated there are 4 million sheep in the country, but the sheep counters keep falling asleep.”
Christy, the song man chuckled so much as he told the story that even when I knew the ending, I laughed right along with him.
Brian was our quick-witted tour guide and by the middle of the trip, I wasn’t sure if his stories were the truth or just more blarney, but I didn’t care.
Billy was the master storyteller who related stories of his mother and father, well-known Irish playwright John B. Keane, and the pub they owned in the Irish countryside. The tales were often filled with suffering and angst, and Billy delivered with such authenticity and warmth, you felt the plight of the saga, but also encouraged by the Irish spirit.
“We do death really well in Ireland, but we can mess up life.”
I’m sure I’ve heard of the Irish reputation as storytellers over the years, but to be captured by the rhythmic delivery of it is a memory I won’t soon forget.
Also as a result of the trip, I feel I could (almost) teach a class on the history of Ireland.
- The “Troubles” was the era of violence between Northern Ireland (backed by England) and the Republic of Ireland from 1969-1999.
- The potato famine saw 1 mil people emigrate and another 1 mil people die. The population still has not recovered. Prior to the famine, people ate 10 pounds of potatoes PER DAY, PER PERSON. It’s easy to understand how a failed crop could kill a nation.
- Don’t even get me started about Oliver Cromwell and his reign of terror on the Catholics in the 1600’s. He was a bad dude.
In closing, I can’t imagine a trip to Ireland without including Northern Ireland. And wherever you are, expect to be served potatoes. Lots and lots of potatoes!
“The only singer in the family is a sewing machine.”
(Note: I am writing this overseas and have limitations with photos and my technology. Hence, just one photo.)