To Dublin


Amsterdam

If you read my post, “Across the Sea,” then you know the reasons why I visited Ireland. My flight consisted of flying to Amsterdam, switching planes and then flying to Dublin. It’s always interesting when you fly over 400 miles further than you wanted to go and then board another plane to fly back to your destination. We reached Amsterdam without incident which, if you fly at all you will know is a great relief. I had a one hour and fifty five minute layover. When the flight crew announced they were ready to board we were all ushered onto a bus. Odd, but not unheard of. The bus left the terminal, and continued leaving the terminal. We rode past houses. And then farms. And open fields. Some time later I saw a plane up ahead on the tarmac. As we got closer, the plane got smaller. “Oh cute,” I thought. “A little planelet.” Well that small plane was where we were heading. It turns out it wasn’t really small, it held about 50 people. But compared to the giant jet I had traversed the Atlantic ocean on, it was small. We boarded and got settled and, didn’t go anywhere. Finally,one on the flight crew came on the intercom and in a nonchalant, sing song voice said, “You may be wondering why we haven’t left yet. It seems we can’t find our pilot. We’re pretty sure he knows he’s supposed to be here but we can’t reach him by phone. But don’t worry, he’ll show up eventually. He always does.”

This was not a confidence booster. Myriad thoughts ran through my little brain. Is he a drunk? Irresponsible? Is he lost? As I sat there reviewing all the poor decisions I had made in my life, flying to Ireland was creeping ever so slowly to the top of the list. Eventually he did show up and proved to be a good pilot. We landed safely in Dublin. I didn’t see any of the flight crew crossing themselves and that helped a lot. Getting through security at Dublin airport was a breeze except they took my shaving cream. In today’s world of AK 47’s and shoe bombs, shaving cream seems pretty tame. I’m not at all sure how I could kill someone with that but apparently terrorists are pretty inventive.

Dublin

So there I was, in Dublin, Ireland for the first time in my life. I found a bus heading toward the city center and climbed aboard. It was just a short walk to my hotel from the last stop. Dublin, with a population of about 1.7 million people is defiantly a cosmopolitan city. Many immigrants have come to Ireland in recent years to help make Dublin a colorful, busy, attractive place. There are restaurants serving every kind of food you can imagine, and shops of every kind. Buses, trains and taxi’s will take you anywhere you wish to go at any hour. There has been a resurgence of interest in the Irish language in the last decades resulting in every public sign containing both English and Irish. I have always heard the language referred to as Gaelic however I learned that is wrong. Gaelic is the culture, Irish is the language. I have been interested in Ireland’s history and have read much about the uprisings and the fight for independence, so I went to see some important sites, especially places concerned with the Easter Rising of 1916. One of these sites was the General Post Office, which is still in use today. It was here that The Irish Volunteers captured the building and used it as their headquarters. In front of the building, Padraig Pearse read the Proclamation of Independence. The rising was unsuccessful but the execution of many of the leaders by the British helped turn the tide of opinion against them (the British) and by December, 1921 The Irish Republic won its independence.

General Post Office and the Spire

In the middle of O’Connell street, right across from the General Post Office (GPO) is the Dublin Spire. It is a monument built on the site of the former Nelson’s Pillar, a monument to a British Naval officer, which was blown up in 1966. The Spire is 9.8 feet wide at the base and 390 feet tall, and is needle shaped. It was commissioned as part of a redesign of the street and chosen in an international contest. Those who don’t like the Spire complain that it has little architectural or cultural connection to the city. In my humble opinion, they’re right. While I was there I noticed a member of the Garda (police) standing near the GPO. So I asked him about the Spire. I asked what the significance of the Spire was. What did it represent? He said, “Well it’s a really tall thing, isn’t it.” It wasn’t a question. “But isn’t there any meaning to it?” I asked. “Well after all, You’ve got to have a really tall thing haven’t you,” he said. That wasn’t a question either. Irish humor is interesting.

As well as the GPO I saw lots of other places in Dublin. The Temple Bar, Dublin Castle, the Ha’Penny bridge, and Trinity College among others. It was a fun weekend and I feel like I walked 500 miles. All up hill. I just about got killed a few times, what with them all driving on the left side of the road. Not only that but electric cars are popular there. Dubliners call them silent death because they don’t make any noise as they run over you. There is much that I did and saw that I could write about but it would make this article way too long. As far as big cities go, I liked Dublin. Facebook and Google like it too. Those companies and others are buying whole office buildings and setting up shop in Dublin. Apparently they get a good tax deal. (If you want to know things, ask a cab driver.) Oh, and it seems Dubliners have an affection for green tinted glass. It’s on buildings everywhere. Next, I’ll tell you of my adventures in the country.

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Across The Sea


What have I been doing for the last ten days, you ask? Or maybe you haven’t. More than likely, you haven’t given a single thought to what I’ve been up to. I’ll tell you anyway. I flew over 7400 miles in four airplanes. I rode over 1000 kilometers in a small coach bus. I hung out with 15 other people for 10 days. And I walked what feels like 500 miles, all up hill. I saw some beautiful beaches, some wonderful mountains, and a hell of a lot of sheep. I learned some history and heard some great music. I met some great people. I went to Ireland. I went there for two reasons. I’ve always wanted to go, and I wanted to take my wife’s ashes there. My wife’s maiden name was Sheehy. That’s a name that is unique to only one place on Earth. Ireland. Her great, great grandfather came to the U. S. with three brothers some time during the 1800’s from County Limerick, Ireland. She always wanted to go, but never found a way. I left her ashes in two places, both of which she would’ve approved of. I feel really good about that.

As I walked through places in Ireland, I felt her spirit. I felt her love and laughter. When Ann was dying of cancer I told her I would take her ashes to Ireland. I told her that the Sheehy’s would have come home then. She put her arms around me and said, “I am home”. It made me cry, as it’s doing right now. It is important to me that I did this. It is a fulfillment, an ending, in a way, of something that I felt was right. Her ashes should reside in the land of her ancestors. In life, Ann felt her Irishness. She was German also, but she always felt a closeness with her Irish roots. And she was a redhead. (I’m told that the red hair hair came to Ireland with the Vikings. More on that later.) So this was important to me, and I pulled it off. Everything worked right. That doesn’t always happen, and I had this silent nagging in my head that said something will go wrong, you won’t be able to do this right. But it worked, and for that I am grateful.

The two places I left her ashes would have been meaningful to her. The first was a little place called Guagan Barra. (Goo-gone Bar-ah) It is the 6th century ruins of the monastic settlement of Saint Finbarr. Ann was raise Catholic, and even though she wasn’t a part of the church any longer, it was still a part of her. This was an absolutely beautiful location on a little spit of land on a lake surrounded by mountains. She would have been in awe of this place. I know I was.

Guagan Barra

The second place was under the alter stone of a Standing Stone Circle. Even though Ann was raised Catholic she had a spiritual side that took a left turn somewhere along the way grabbed hold of her pagan Irish roots. She was very interested in Ancient Ireland, it’s people and their spiritual beliefs. She probably could’ve sat in the middle of that stone circle for a long time, communing with those who went before her.

Alter stone at Kenmare stone circle.

I’ll write more soon about the trip, the people I met and places I went. I just wanted you to know why I went. Not the least of which is that I just wanted to see Ireland too. I have Irish ancestors also. Names like Brown, Daily, Byrne, and O’Brien grace my genealogy chart. I’ve traced them back to the 1300’s and my mother always remembered her grandparents speaking in an Irish brogue. So now you know why I went, not that I would need an excuse, It’s Ireland after all. Who wouldn’t want to go there?

My Irish and Scottish Heritage

Saint Patrick’s day is coming once again, on Saturday, March 17th. In honor of himself, I thought I would talk about my Irish heritage. I’ve been spending a lot of time researching my family genealogy, taking DNA tests and planning trips to Scotland and Ireland. It’s been great fun discovering my ancient ancestors. Armstrong is a Scottish name but I’m having trouble tracing them back to Scotland. The Armstrong’s, as with many Scottish families, moved around between Scotland, England and Ireland. I’ve hit a brick wall with that side of my family. Not so on my mother’s side. I have traced a family line back 17 generations. Toirdhealbhagh Turlough Don Mac Mathghamhna aka Turlough Bishop Killoe-O’Brien -O’Brien King of Thomond of Mumhan, born in 1450, Bally, Clare, Ireland was my 17th great grandfather. He was the King of Munster.

Don’t ask me to pronounce his name! His son, Murrough Carrach O’Brien, First Earl of Thomond, was the first Baron of Inchiquin. Inchiquin, is a Barony (a historical subdivision of a county) in County Clare. Ireland. My Grandmother on my mom’s side was a Brown. Her grandmother was a Dailey. Several generations back from her, the family married into the Byrne name and they in turn married into the O’Brien’s. The O’Briens trace their family history back to Brian Boru, King of Munster who died at the Battle of Clontarf in 1014. His brother, Mathghamhna is one of the names of my 17th great grandfather listed above, although more than 400 years separate them, they are probably related. Some people find this dry and boring, but when it’s your own family, it’s fascinating.

Saint Patrick was captured from Roman Britain by Irish pirates during the early 400’s and after being held as a captive slave for six years he escaped and returned home. Some years later he returned to Ireland and began to convert the Irish to Christianity. Saint Patrick’s day has been celebrated as an Irish Catholic holiday for a long time but it was only during the 1970’s that American style celebrations took place in Ireland. Something that really grinds my gears is when people write, St. “Patty’s” day. It’s not “patty”, It’s “paddy.” Patrick is the English version of the Irish name Padraig or Padraic, pronounced, PAWD-rig. Patrick, in his own writings used the name, “Patricius” so I suppose those who say St. “Patty’s” day can be forgiven. But not by much.

I’m going to Scotland in a couple weeks for a Reiver festival. The Armstrong’s were a Scottish boarder clan centered in the Liddesdale and Eskdale area of the Scottish/English boarder. They were called “reivers” because they were a warlike clan, cheating, stealing, pillaging, and murdering there way through life. Hey, times were tough. You did what you had to do.

The Motto, Invictus Maneo means, “I remain Unvanquished.” Sounds badass, doesn’t it? I highly recommend doing your genealogy. And also taking a DNA test. The results can be fascinating. I’ve found some nationalities I didn’t know I had. From doing my family genealogy I knew I had Scottish and Irish as well as French and German but I found some Dutch in there as well as the possibility of Flemish. And if you like, you can find others who share your DNA that you are related to but didn’t know it! DNA tests are a little expensive but it’s worth it to know where your people came from.