The Luck of the Irish (and other quotes)

Bless your little Irish heart and every other Irish part.

I boarded a Qantas jet in Sydney with a return ticket to London, a 3 month Eurail pass and my sister’s backpack.

I wore my red Reeboks, a camel duffel coat with toggles and a dodgy haircut.  It was the late 80s and I was ready for my European adventure.

But the continent could wait as my English friend Mary was keen to show me the land of her Irish parents so after heading up to Woodbridge in Suffolk to meet her, we set off for the Emerald Isle.

We travelled by train across to Holyhead, Anglesey in North Wales, then ferried across the Irish Sea to Dun Laoghaire, and arrived at dawn.

Dun Laoghaire at dawn, Ireland 1986

We were whisked away by Mary’s welcoming relatives who fed us bacon and eggs and homemade soda bread and put us to  bed for a few hours.

Then we set off to Stillorgan for our first night in Ireland.

Bus travel in Ireland, 1986

God Invented Whisky to Keep the Irish from Ruling the World.

Our destination was the St John of God hospital and seminary run by the Christian Brothers who manage hospitals and missions all over the world.

As luck would have it Mary’s brother was a Christian Brother who had been living and working in South Korea and was back in Ireland for a visit with a Korean delegation so celebrations were in order.

We were treated to an Irish-Korean cross cultural feast that had all the main dishes accompanied by potatoes and rice, and they were then washed down with Irish whisky and Korean soju.

We donned traditional Korean costume (Hanbok) whilst a well-known Korean opera singer entertained us.  Then we rolled up the sleeves on our Hanboks to clap along with traditional Irish folk music and swayed our skirts to the haunting melody of Danny Boy, sung in Korean.

Wearing Hanboks for Korean night in Ireland - 1986

After disentangling ourselves from our Hanboks we said goodnight and Jal Ja to the Brothers (some of them who were beginning to look irreverantly handsome to me at this stage of the evening) and headed over to the hospital to sleep.

As luck would have it there was only space for us to sleep in the alcoholic ward but we trusted that the Brothers had our best interests at heart.  And so it came to be that we were locked into that wing of the hospital, for our own safety, and were then rudely awakened by the fire alarm in the small hours of the morning, not long after we’d fallen into an alcohol induced sleep.

I was very concerned by the residents of the ward as they milled back and forth past our peephole; presumably they were also locked into the ward and didn’t know what to do.  Mary appeared calm whilst I imagined the flames flickering away, just beyond our corridor, and the smoke induced coma that would envelop the Irish, the Koreans and this young Australian backpacker with a promising future.

I hoped to be saved by a handsome young Christian brother – or anyone, for that matter.

A good laugh and a long sleep are the two best cures.

After escaping a fiery demise we considered our hangovers to be a blessing and bid the Brothers farewell as we headed off to Dublin.

The Gaelic football finals were on the following day and the streets were a sea of red and white for Tyrone, and green and gold for Kerry, which I felt more partial to because of the Australian colours.

As we celebrated into the night at O’Donohue’s pub I had to ask Mary to translate many a conversation as the brogues around me were thicker than my Bailey’s Irish cream.

Love may make the world go round, but not as fast as whisky. (Richard Harris)

Dublin was a bit anti-climactic after such a big night so we hopped on a train to Tralee, saw Dingle briefly and then moved on to Killarney, in the ring of Kerry.

Genevieve & Mary - Ring of Kerry, Ireland 1986 (2)

Upon arrival at the train station in Killarney Mary and I were whisked off our feet, along with our bags, by a couple of guys in a blue minibus.  Mary was sanguine about this heist as they said they were from the 4 Winds Hostel, which was where we were headed.  I was very reluctant to jump in a van with two complete strangers, but Mary was responding calmly to our hijacking whilst I contemplated the best way to jump from a moving vehicle.

When we were delivered safely to the hostel, Mary continued to smile and wink at me as though I should know why.  Then I saw the driver.  I looked at his dark celtic features and knew that she had fallen under the spell of his looks, and I averted my gaze so I wouldn’t fall too.  He was far too good looking to be a serial killer.  That night, over many drinks at the Danny Mann pub, Mary and I discussed the pros and cons of marrying a handsome Irish man.

Next morning we jumped aboard the hostel’s tour bus for a guided tour of the Ring of Kerry.  We were inspired to undertake this journey because the Irish hunk was on the bus – how lucky could we get.   We watched him walk up and down the aisle, checking tickets and then he jumped off the bus and onto another bus heading off on a different tour.  Mary’s hopes were dashed, and I confess to feeling a bit the same myself.

We really have everything in common with America nowadays except, of course, language. (Oscar Wilde)

On board the bus tour we met two young male backpackers, an American and an Australian.  We were kept amused by the antics of the elderly tourists aboard with us, particularly an American couple we dubbed ‘Mickey & Minnie’, who were dressed in Disney apparel and accessories, complete with a set of braces and copious amounts of jewellery.  They took photos of each other all day long with their Polaroid camera – sadly I didn’t get any photos of them.

To cement our new friendships, we four ‘ mousketeers’ spent that evening in the Danny Man pub celebrating Kerry’s win in the football the previous day and trying to outdrink a German called Fricker who thought our accents were funny…

Danny Mann Pub, Killarney, Ireland 1986

Just before midnight we learnt it was Matt’s birthday and, as luck would have it, we found a spare birthday banana that we signed and presented to him.

An American in the Danny Mann, Killarney, Ireland - 1986

I watched a funeral go by and asked who was dead.  A man said, “The fella in the box”. (Dave Allen)

A snap decision to visit Cork was made so we said goodbye to our fellow travellers and boarded the 10.30am train from Killarney, where the clouds continued to threaten us, and we were in need of some sunshine.

Ring of Kerry, Ireland - 1986

As it turned out, the only good thing about Cork was the weather.

We checked into the Cork City Tourist Apartments, upon the River Lee.  Apparently Cork is called the Venice of Ireland due to the fact that it was built upon islands.  I confess, I saw no resemblance whatsoever.  As we were travelling on a budget we weren’t expecting 5 star luxury but these apartments were so grim we felt we were on the receiving end of some wretched joke that we just didn’t get.  Upon making our way down to the basement, where the showers were located, Mary and I had a brief look around and made a pact not to bathe until we reached the next destination.

We decided to take in the sights of Cork instead, but sadly didn’t see anything to make us want to stay longer than one night.  Walking past a funeral parlour we noticed the open doors and then just beyond them, an open casket complete with corpse, ready for viewing I suppose.  I ventured a closer look and was struck by the gentleman’s peaceful expression; he was clearly relieved to be leaving Cork, as we were the following day.

Heading to Blarney Castle

If you’re lucky enough to be Irish, then you’re lucky enough.

On the outskirts of Cork lies Blarney Castle, where for hundreds of years people have been visiting to kiss the Blarney Stone.  For some reason I declined to do this, possibly because of the athletic skill required to hang upside down to reach it whilst puckering your lips beyond their normal extension.  However I was happy enough to hold the contents of Mary’s pockets as she bent herself over backwards to complete the task.

Kissing the Blarney Stone, County Cork, Ireland - 1986

We continued our journey eastwards back towards England for another few nights, discovering and delighting in this charming island nation.

Ring of Kerry, Ireland - 1986

I know I don’t need to extol the virtues of Ireland with it’s fierce history, passionate people, stunning scenery and world class whisky as there are many who have done so before me.

I’m glad I went, I’ll go again, and I hope you get to go too; until then:

Wherever you go and whatever you do, may the luck of the Irish be there with you.


Four leaf clover - Luck of the Irish

14 Comments Add yours

  1. Your post makes me want to visit Ireland again. And again. And again. Thanks for adding the link to Ailsa’s blog. It’s a pleasure to find you!

    1. Thank you for your lovely comments, Rusha and Bert. I love discovering new blogs as much as I do new places to travel, so I look forward to reading more of your adventures too.

  2. well that certainly brought back some memories of The South in the 80s. I am from The North and wonder have You ever visited ? It has changed so much since the 80s and is very beautiful too with the Mourne mountains sweeping down to the sea as well as The beautiful Fermanagh Lakes and then the sheer ruggedness of The Antrim Coast.! I hope that someday You shall visit .Enjoyed your blog immensely. Louise .

    1. Hi Louise,
      Thank you for your lovely comments. I would definitely love to visit the North of Ireland – it was a bit unstable when I was there, but I did meet some backpackers who had made the journey and they raved about the beauty. It is definitely on my ‘to see’ list.

  3. That was such an interesting read! And as I read, I waiting expectantly for a mention of my beloved Cork, because it’s where I’m from, where I live and where i love! Only to have all my hopes dashed by your uninspiring time with us here in the ‘Real Capital’. All I can say is that Ireland is a very different place to the Ireland of the 80’s and I would like to think that if you were ever to visit us here again you’d be pleasantly surprised by how far it’s come!

    1. I have no doubt Ireland has changed radically since I was there Audrey, and I also attribute our rotten time in Cork to the backpacking apartments in which we stayed – that are hopefully gone now. In the years since my visit I have indeed heard many wonderful things about Cork from natives and visitors, so rest assured I will return and I look forward to seeing Cork with fresh eyes.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment – I really appreciate it.

  4. An entertaining story, and great quotes! You did mention whisky many times. Found a list of top 10 drinking countries, Ireland was number 1 and Finland number 2. Had to check this 😉

    1. That is so funny about the drinking statistics Ann-Mari, however I am shocked that Australia isn’t high up in the list – many of us come from Irish stock and we certainly know how to drink down here.

      Thanks so much for your comment.

  5. Hey, what a great post! I’m lucky enough to be Irish. My great-grandparents both came from Ireland and then met here in America. Much of the family stayed in Ireland but, once my mother’s generation is gone, I wonder if any of us will stay in touch.

    Loved the humor in the piece and the photos.

    And, oh. Listen to this. My husband’s grandfather Carl was from Ireland. He was one of 15 children. His brother got a passport to the US; Carl was 15 at the time and got a sudden urge to go, so he got up early, stole his brother’s passport and boarded the ship. As he said, nobody knew the Mackin brothers apart, anyhow.

    When he got to the US, he started feeling guilty so, once he earned enough money working on the railroad, he sent for his brother — and then the two of them eventually got enough money to bring their mother and the rest of their siblings here.

    Anyhow . . . I really enjoyed this post! Well done.

    1. Kelly that is a brilliant story about your husband’s grandfather. Those sort of stories should definitely be handed down through the generations to remind young people about how adventurous and daring folks were throughout history, otherwise many of us wouldn’t be here… I too have Irish blood in me, in fact, most of the world probably has, so it makes us all a bit lucky.

      Thanks for reading and commenting.

  6. mmacro says:

    I so enjoyed this romp around Ireland, starting with the arresting image of the first painting! The quotes you interspersed throughout were highly entertaining. Thank you!

    1. Thanks Marguerite. There’s something very special about the Irish, their language and their magic.

      1. mmacro says:

        I’ve never been to Ireland, though I recognized some of your photograph locations like the Blarney Stone from my husband’s trip many years ago. I have been lucky enough to have a few friends and colleagues from Ireland though, and they certainly lived up to all the fun Irish stereotypes though thankfully not the heavy drinking!

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