I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree…
–W. B. Yeats
Three decades have passed since I last walked the streets of Dublin, Galway and Sligo. A great many things have changed in those years. And, a great many haven’t. The smell of peat-fires in Dublin on a December night, the blasts of wind from the North Atlantic that sting your face when you look out to the west from Donegal and the foamy black pint of Guiness…these things never change.
I will be in good company. My wife and my son will be on their first visit. Where does one begin to plan such a trip? What to see? What to gaze upon?
We shall avoid the touristy places like Blarney Castle. But, we will stand above the sea on the Cliffs of Mohair and look up at the keep that is the Egan ancestral castle..Castle Redwood. It was once said to be haunted. I, myself, heard Michael Egan (who restored the structure) tell of being awakened by something dark that was choking him. He called in the local priest the next day. He slept soundly ever since.
[Castle Redwood, Headquarters for the Egan Clan]
We will stand amid the ruins of Cashel and contemplate the glories of the past. We will drink alongside unshaven farmers in pubs with names like Egan’s, O’Malley’s and Fitzgibbon’s.
As I sit on the right in the driver’s seat and drive on the left, we’ll wait for the herd of sheep as they muddle pass us on a narrow lane.
My wife and I will walk up Grafton Street (my son won’t join us until we reach Shannon Airport) and perhaps see a woman with black hair…and she will weave a snare…that someday, I might rue.
My wife and I may sit at the 19th hole and wait for my son to do 9 holes with an old duffer in tweeds.
All this, and more will happen. And I will, yes I will, yes…sit them both on a stone wall under bare Ben Bulben’s Head, at the edge of the grave of the greatest of Irish poets, William B. Yeats, and read to them from the dark marble of his headstone:
Cast a cold eye
on life, on death.
Horseman, pass by!
[To my knowledge, this was my father on his last visit to Ireland]
When we come at the end of time
To Peter sitting in state,
He will smile on the three old spirits,
But call me first through the gate;
For the good are always the merry,
Save by an evil chance,
And the merry love the fiddle
And the merry love to dance:
And when the folk there spy me,
They will all come up to me,
With ‘Here is the fiddler of Dooney!’
And dance like a wave of the sea.
Watch for my blogs from across the sea.