May The Sun Rise To Meet Him

 IrishStuff

On Wednesday, my son, Brian will step off the red-eye flight from JFK and the sun will rise to meet him.  I will have my son, my boy, my only boy with me while we tour our ancestral island with my wife (on her first visit, too).

It’s been thirty years since I’ve been to Ireland.  I can hardly wait to see how it’s changed, fear how it’s changed and hope that some things are not changed at all.

I will take Brian to see some Irish Egans.  I will meet a distant cousin I haven’t seen since 1984.  Together   we will visit the graves of my other relatives who have passed on in those past three decades.  As homework, I asked him to watch The Quiet Man, something I’m sure he didn’t have the time to do.  That’s okay.  He has me as his guide.

I will be the Seanchai, and tell him stories of Irish history…the glorious tales of heroic myths like Cúchulainn and Tir Na Nog and Brian Boru.

I will also tell him of the days of the famine, when the British landowners shipped beef and potatoes back to England, leaving the Irish to eat dirt.

He will hear of the Uprisings.  He will hear of Kevin Barry, a man younger than my son, who was executed by the English in 1920.  He will know of Bobby Sands and the hunger strike that took his life six years before my son was born.

[I love England, as my readers know, but I also understand what some English did to my people.]

I will show him the Cliffs of Moher, and the towns of Galway and Sligo.

I will read Yeats to him under bare Ben Bulben.  I will make every attempt to get him a sip of Potcheen.  Like a true Irishman, I will talk his ear off while he is cornered in a pub in Culleens.

Cashel

We will walk among the ruins of Cashel and rub our hands against the ancient rock.  The lichen and the moss will scratch our palms.  It’s likely to rain Irish water from Irish clouds on his shoulders.  The fog may slow our driving through the narrow lanes.  But, in the few days he has to be with us, I will touch the highlights that will dirty his fingers with the soil of his homeland.

 

Dance Like A Wave Of The Sea

IrishCliffs

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.

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[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.

Egan PUB

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.

IrishCasteNearCashel

[Near Cashel]

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!

dad ireland  copy

[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.

–W.B.Yeats

Watch for my blogs from across the sea.