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Read about Colin’s Ireland Vacation
19th & 20th June
Well folks – we made it. We are the champions; the Masters of the Universe. The Coombs and I are bonding with the Irish bog people! I should mention too the Irish bog fiddlers, the bog logs, the bog horses and the great *Bog Off*! This is a very prosperous country. The fact that it is Irish the English must abhor. We, in Scotland, just love it. We never liked those buggers south of the Tweed. We want Berwick back!
We went to Glendalough and then on to Waterford. In the former was a very old monastery, a hotel and little else but the monastery was a fascinating old place. The newest head stone was dated 1790 but I could not read who lay under it.
At one time these monasteries were widespread and wealthy; that is until King Henry VIII had a spat with the Pope and simply dissolved them. He plundered their wealth and handed out their lands to his military (in many cases in lieu of back pay). The new land lords often broke them down for building stone. Those who do survive all have the high watch towers you see in the photo.
Waterford was a pretty enough town known mainly for Waterford Crystal. We were taken round the factory which was interesting enough. What I really did notice was the vast unused capacity in all departments. Apparently the business is not doing well and seeks to restructure debt at the worst possible time. I saw beautiful trophies there for all sports. The “Ashes” one looked like it was for just that!
We saw the blowing process, mould cutting from beech wood, metal moulds and the moulding of the crystal glass. We then saw the cutting process and the final cleaning. They use computers to draw a matrix guide for the cutters who do a rough cut and a final fine cut. The cutting wheels are water cooled. I can see why the damned stuff is so expensive!
We also were taken on a walking tour of the city from west to east. It turned out to be not too far at all and our Irish guide was a very funny fellow. One thing of note was an old tower, built circa 1000AD. It has been in continuous use since and is now a museum (unfortunately closed when we got there!) Waterford, like so many towns and cities we visited, has a river running through. I have really been impressed at the high quality of most homes here; there are many very palatial properties and even the more humble of dwellings are mostly well maintained, walled and have fine well tended gardens.
After Waterford on the morning of 20th we had tea and scones in an old castle cum farm house. This was a working farm with just 100 dairy cattle and I doubt it was ever the castle the old owner described. It did make a pleasant interlude and the scones were first rate. They handed out the recipe but I seem to have lost it! We moved on from there to Blarney Castle and wool mills. You can “Kiss the Blarney Stone” for about $8.00 and a two hour queue! They section those who complete this ordeal! Only the blessed Irish could charge folks for kissing a bit of old rock. We finished the day in Killarney, which was hugely commercial but lovely too. It poured as we arrived and was still pouring as we left. As a result I have no photos.
Outside of our Best Western Hotel horse drawn carriages waited in the rain for the customers who did not come. The owners looked as miserable as the horses. Killarney is a party town and they sure party of Fridays and Saturdays. Our hotel was right in the centre of town and they were still whooping it up at 3.00 AM. This is now County Kerry. County Waterford is the one we just left. There are many fine churches, including a cathedral, but cathedrals here are seldom older than a couple of hundred years.
On Saturday 21st the weather was no kinder. We had a day trip around the “Ring of Kerry”. Our driver, a most charming and likeable John Tulley spent the day describing what we would see with no wind and driving rain. It all sounded delightful – but we saw none of it. In the end I bought a DVD called “The essence of Kerry”. It should tell me what I missed.
The countryside is very green and well wooded but not always too fertile. Some places are very rocky with only 2 or 3 inches of topsoil. Here only sheep survive. In commercially forested areas much more topsoil is needed and that supports crops such as wheat and barley. We saw no potato crops but plenty were on sale by the roadside, as were strawberries in many places. I also noted cabbages and cauliflower. Many farms also keep horses.
As an aside we passed through one small town where there was a statue of a King Goat. I have a note of the name somewhere in the many leaflets we have collected. Apparently the natives capture a wild Billy goat in the surrounding hills, bring him to town and secure him in the town square. There he is treated as king during three full days of partying! Here they need no excuse. What can one say about folks who party with goats?
I have just raided the brochures and can tell you that the goat is known as King Puck and the festival is in Killorglin in Killarney. In this area we saw “bog ponies” which are sure footed and small. They are used to work the peat bogs.
After the mist, wind and rain around the “Ring of Kerry” we left for a ferry ride into County Clare and on thence to County Galway. The brochure said “View the Cliffs of Moher” but 65 / 70 MPH wind gusts together with driving rain certainly did not encourage me to risk being blown off the cliffs and into the Atlantic. Actually the wind was off shore so I would have been blown back to the coach. We could hardly stand up in that wind! Who would be a tour operator? Again I saw photos of what I missed. We moved on from Galway to County Mayo.
This was not an eventful day but we did visit a Celtic crystal factory and a local marble cutter in Moycullen. Both were interesting but the ever present gift shops were grossly overpriced. Our party is mainly American and bought all kinds of stuff at prices which they would have freaked out at if home. My only souvenir is my video.
We finished up in Ballina but not before I saw and photographed some folks floating down a river inside large plastic balls. This was in a town called Westport.
We were assured that this is not some ancient Celtic ritual so it is perhaps a rag day prank.
The main streets in all of those small towns are really not too suitable for modern traffic needs and certainly difficult for coaches. Our driver (John Tulley) has been excellent and had to back up many times during the tour. They are very colourful (literally), painted in bright yellows blues, greens, reds etc. They also all seem to be pretty laid back. We have quickly become this too! It is all too easy here.
This was our second last day and the weather again was foul. It has been poor overall since midway through. We visited an old Georgian Manor House ((Strokestown) and a grim old place it was too. Built in seventeen hundred and frozen to death It had been lived in until 1981 by the last survivor of the Mahon family (Olive). She died in London in 1982. Take a look at her kitchen!
This was overlooked by a balcony. Apparently the mistress never set foot in the kitchen but shouted instruction from that rickety structure to the servants below. All the old pots and pans were there, as was an ancient chain weight driven spit roast which would have taken a pig, a sheep or a quartered cut of beef. The place was a dingy time warp now open to the public as a famine museum. We don’t have much to be proud of there! It was apparently possible for both the family and the servants to move independently with each group never seeing the other. Of course wenches could be summoned by “Bell Pull”. One of old Emily’s forebears used a post horn to announce his return from London or wherever and that horn also cleared the town streets. He did not wish to see or be seen by the “Great Unwashed!” “He was pronounced mad in the end”, we were told.
We checked into our hotel last evening and were taken off for supper to the Abbey Tavern (about 15 minutes away) for an evening of Irish song and dance. That was much better than the food but the restaurant had about 250 people seated in the stage area on long tables.
As I type I am in the Grand Hotel, Dublin at the end of our tour. It is the morning of 25th and I will shortly be thinking of breakfast. The Coombs still sleeps.
Last night, as we arrived he wandered into the bathroom and saw a red pull cord. “What’s this?” he said as he pulled same and paramedics started to batter down the door. Our room was one for aged and infirm people. Perhaps John had forewarned them about the whiskey in the baggage!
Our flight out is at 8.50 PM arriving in Glasgow at 9.45 PM. We should be home by 10.30 PM. It is dull outside so we are in for a long day. They will move us from here by noon and I have no wish to spend hours in an airport!
All in all it has been a very pleasant trip but not really for youngsters. We did have two little girls on board and they were perfectly well behaved but the teens / early twenties went off to plunder and pillage as the opportunity arose. They were all American girls by the way!
I would recommend a break like this for the not so old but not so new either but all must remember not to joke about the Tudors, Cromwell or potatoes! I saw whole books devoted to cooking that one single vegetable! (Every which way but loose!)
Our driver John kept us well entertained throughout with his considerable knowledge of Irish history and his clean but funny jokes. He recited a story about a man who drank and a pig. He was asked to repeat it but didn’t get to it so here it is. If anyone knows the young woman who wanted it then send it on.
A MAN AND A PIG
One evening in October,
When I was far from sober,
And dragging home a load with manly pride,
My feet began to stutter,
So I lay down in the gutter,
And a pig came up and parked right by my side,
Then I warbled: “It’s fair weather
When good fellows get together”,
Till a lady passing by was heard to say:
“You can tell a man who boozes
By the company he chooses!”
Then the pig got up and slowly walked away.
Now here is an Irish joke he didn’t tell. We know them too!
John O’Reilly hoisted his beer and said, “Here’s to spending the rest of me life; between the legs of me wife!”
That won him the top prize at the pub for the best toast of the night.
He went home and told his wife, Mary, “I won the prize for The Best toast of the night”
She said, “Aye, did you now. And what was your toast?”
John said, “Here’s to spending the rest of me life, sitting in church beside me wife.”
“Oh, that is very nice indeed, John!” Mary said.
The next day, Mary ran into one of John’s drinking buddies on the street corner.
The man chuckled leeringly and said, “John won the prize the other night at the pub with a toast about you, Mary.”
She said, “Aye, he told me, and I was a bit surprised you know, he’s only been there twice in the last four years. Once he fell Asleep, and the other time I had to pull him by the ears to get him to come.”
You got to love them! I hope you enjoyed it all as much as I / we did.