The Swans Of The Shannon River: Limerick On A Warm Afternoon


I dropped Mariam at our hotel and drove off to find the parking lot.  I made two lefts and passed two pubs, one of which was called The Sin Bin.  I took note of the name.  Maybe this pub had something more than pints of Guinness.  I walked back to the hotel and we decided to walk along O’Connell Street.  In two blocks it turned into Patrick Street.  Limerick wasn’t fine and healthy in this part of town.  There were a fair number of boarded up storefronts and more than the usual number of Asian restaurants.  Only a few old-fashioned pubs hugged the sidewalk…and they looked nearly closed.  They had none of the classic “Irish Pub” look so many places in London, Dublin and even New York sported.

It was an unusually warm day for the west of Ireland.  Temperatures must have been in the low 80’s F.  We walked down to the quay that ran along the Shannon River.  I looked across the water and was surprised to get a fine view of King John’s Castle.  I had driven past the place many decades ago and the place still gave me the chills…even in the June warmth.

Yes, this is the same King John who signed the Magna Carta in 1215 in a field near Windsor, England.  He was the youngest of five sons of Henry II and Elenore of Aquitaine.  (That would be Katherine Hepburn in the movie.)  He was given lands in France and England and Ireland.  He became known as the Lord of Ireland and ordered this castle built in 1200.

Before the English arrived, the Vikings had a walled town here on or about 922.

But today I was watching a bevy of swans fighting for food that some guy was throwing down from the walkway.  A feeding frenzy of swans is quite a sight to see since swans seem to me anyway, a symbol of calmness and grace.

This city of Limerick showed signs of a past glory.  That past is coming slowly back to live through various civic projects.  It’s a beautiful Georgian town, like Bath in England, but without the funds to fully restore the townhouses and old cemeteries.  But things are happening.  I hope the progress continues.  After all, the city got a bad reputation as a result of Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes.  Many of the locals were angry, so I’ve read, at McCourt at presenting a depressing and dismal part of the city’s history.

But, the swans looked happy and uncaring.  What more could they want?  It was warm and it wasn’t raining.

I’ll settle in to read now.  My son will be at Shannon Airport at 11:00 am in the morning.

He’ll see the landscape of the Burrens and Connemara for the first time, just like I did thirty-one years ago.


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