I decided to take a short break from my task for Birgitta and visit the country of my ancestors. Both my fathers family (The Walsh’s) and my mothers family (The Dolan’s) were Irish. I have never had the urge Birgitta had pursuing my family tree, but, growing up was certainly an Irish experience. Maybe even more important than Christmas, New Years or the dozens of Catholic holidays St. Patrick’s day was a big part of my identity. Every St Patrick’s day the Boston newspapers published a map of the First Families of Ireland and we who were honored to have out names shown on that map would mark where our ancestors came from and pin it up for the world to see. We expressed our sadness for those who were not on this list. Sometimes we did them the honor of allowing them to be Honorary Irish men for the day and join us in trying to consume all the beer that we could find. This was special because where I grew up we were Irish, Portuguese, Italians and a spattering of mongrels all proud of our heritage but the only Saint to have such an honor was Patrick. Oh the joy of it all!
I recently learned that every Irish child knows the words of 400 Irish songs because they heard them from birth. I asked one of the Irish Music Pub Crawl guides how many he knew off the top of his head and his response was 4000. I believe it, because the Irish had no written language before Christianity and St. Patrick came to Ireland. All history passed from mouth to mouth and storytelling was an art form appreciated by all and is so until this day. Much of the storytelling was set to music. My father was one who knew all of the Irish songs and I often heard him sing them. Somewhere in my home there are tape’s of him singing Birgitta treasured and saved. Before and during the second World War we lived behind one of the most popular bars only 50 feet away and through the open windows there were times on a Friday night when I heard him, after enough beer, sing to the house. He was pretty good. Years later when he learned I was coming home to visit he invited all of the Walsh’s to a back yard party. He had four brothers and a sister and each time several of them would show up with their children because this was the only time he ever invited anyone. He would often end the evening singing one or more Irish songs. My mother died early and my father remarried a wonderful little lady who was born in Ireland giving me two of her son’s of Ireland as brothers. Their Irishness was apparent. Their love of the (unknown except in stories)) old Sod a requirement of life. This lovely little lady, who had been previously married, had to get a dispensation from the Pope to marry my father. She was able to do so because she had been the first in her family to immigrate to the US and sent money home for the other siblings to follow. They became priests and nuns. giving her a little added leverage. We are talking about relatively poor people not some Royalty. Ordinary people. They had originally been married by a Justice of the Peace but after the Pope’s blessing were married in the church on their 25th Anniversary with the whole family in attendance. Irish Pride was certainly in attendance that day.
But I wander again, this is about my visit to Dublin. But, I guess like my fore bearers I have trouble telling the story without embellishment. It’s the Irish in me you see.
“In Dublin’s fair city, where girls are so pretty” a song about Sweet Molly Malone starts, A song about a street vendor who sold fish as her parents had, “the tart with the cart” who’s song is better known than the national Anthem. A buxom statue to Molly with her cart stands at the end of Grafton Street Dublin’s liveliest pedestrian shopping mall. One of the world’s most interesting walking streets with musicians every 25 yards treating the public to the most fantastic music. Amateurs all, singing for tips, hoping to be discovered. Truly a unique experience. Grafton Street runs from St Stephan’s Green to Trinity College was a few years ago the most expensive rental real estate in the world before the Celtic Tiger economy was adversely effected by our recent 2008 monetary crisis.
I played tourist. Went to the theater and saw the fabulous “Riverdance” on stage. Nothing you ever saw on TV compares to the live performance. Every star a true “Star”. The stoyline, without a word, fabulous. Individual performances astounding. The Flamenco beyond Sevilla. Do you get the impression I liked it? Dublin is famous for it’s Pub crawls. I Went on “The Irish Music Pub Crawl”. Not the recent contemporary groups, U2, Thin Lizzy, the Coors, Sinead O’Conner, Enya. Traditional Irish Music: The Chieftains, Dubliners, The Clancy Brothers, Opera, John McCormack and dozens of true Irish music players. “The Irish Literary Pub Crawl” authors, Jonathan Swift, W.B. Yates, James Joyce, George Bernard Shaw, Samuel Becket, Oscar Wilde, and Frank McCourt. Dublin the only city in the world with four Pulitzer Prize Winners. Then I crawled a little on my own. The Temple Bar Area alive from noon till the we hours of the morning is the place for tourists to see and hear Irish music. The area contains dozens of pubs all competing for the local and tourist business. Grogarty’s Pub my personal favorite has sessions from 14:00 downstairs and from 21:00 upstairs is pricier but is a great kickoff place. It also is here the traditional Music Pub crawl begins. The Brazen Head, the oldest in Dublin has food, folk and fairies evenings. The palace Bar, Porterhouse, O’Sheas Merchant Pub, and the Arlington house will entertain you until you drop. They are not as traditional as you will find in the country pubs but here it is all in one happy area with everyone on the street outside beer glass in hand moving from place hoping to find the best, not realizing they maybe just left it.
Ireland’s Dublin Area “Silicon Bog” is the home of IBM, Intel, Microsoft, Apple, Facebook, and Google. They are the number two producer of computer software in the world. They also produce more “Viagra” than any other country … though the proudly virile Irish males claim it’s all for export. (Thank you Rick Steves for these facts).
Trinity College is vast in the center of the city. Graduate Students will “ake you on tours with lively stories of everything they show. Here you can see where the Irish “Gift of Gab” will be around for a few more generations. They eventually lead you to “The Book of Kells”. It is and illustrated manuscript Gospel Book in Latin containing 340 folios in 4 volumes which proudly resides in the library and was written by Christian Monks on Calf vallum in the years around 800AD. Beautifully illustrated using colors from dies produced by the monks it remains in Pristine condition and can be downloaded from Amazon if you truly want to be amazed at what religious love and devotion could produce at such an early date. Try it you’ll like it!
The revolutionary history is another thing the Irish revel in. They have every right to be proud. History of the rebellion IS Dublin today. The entire city is a record of their war for independence. Spread out for all to see on O’Connell Street where statues celebrating great figures of Ireland’s past dominate the beautiful tree lined median strip. The country was founded in 1922, and is only 80 years old, after 800 years of British rule. If you sit in the bar on an organized pub tour and the tour guide asks where you are from there are cheers for most of us. If a Brit is there there is a moan and the pub owner will likely go get down his shillelagh. It is all in good fun. I think! No place I have ever been is as proud of their independence as Dublin. I thought the Boston Irish were proud but here it is much more intense.
There is so much more I could say. The “Gift of Gab” finding a home on paper But, this isn’t about me and my trip, although by now you might be wondering. I have to get Maria to figure out where to place my ego portion of the trip so it does not clutter up the narrative with trivia. Interesting! But, who needs it? I do!