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"Happiness always looks small when you hold it in your hands, but let it go, and at once you learn how big and precious it is."
Maxim Gorky

Saturday, July 25, 2009

The Ring

So after a relaxing train ride back from Belfast through farmlands and along the coast we are back in Dublin before heading out for our next adventure. Part of this adventure is the renting of a car and finally trying to be brave enough to master the Irish roadways….This is not for the faint of heart or the slow driver. Irish roads are winding, narrow, rock wall lined and speed limits are very high compared to similar roads here. A quaint two lane country byway will have a speed limit of 80 kmh plus the added fact that you are driving a right hand drive car on the left hand side of the road.

We decided that our first Irish driving experience would NOT be renting a car from the Dublin airport and trying to find our way to Killarney from there….no, we took the safer way by hopping a train to Cork (a much smaller city) and renting one from the airport there. We picked up our car…smallest one on the lot…and headed out…The right hand drive thing was fine since I own a Delica van with right hand drive. The bizarre part was turning on to the road way and everything that had been habit was now in reverse and I actually had to THINK about it..thank god dad was there to confirm which lane I had to be in! The other thing is wrapping your head around those oh so wonderful roundabouts! Not too many traffic lights…just lots of roundabouts..Of course we got lost in the first one but brilliantly stayed on the proper side of the road…As my daughter says..”you haven’t lived until you go the wrong way in a roundabout”.  So we arrived in Killarney in one piece and fell in love with this pretty Irish village.

It is definitely a tourist town but still holds on to its qauintness and has that wonderful small town feel about it. It is in County Kerry…which is my namesake and the area is commonly referred to as “The Kingdom of Kerry”….gotta love that! The Kingdom is proud of its tradition of independence and disregard for Dublin rule. Everywhere are signs with my name on it which I thought was really cool since its not a common name here .
We decided to have dinner in O’Donahues…which looked like a nice Irish place on the outside but when we walked in it was kind of glitzy and was owned and run by 3 Chinese guys…anyway the food was good and the meals are huge! Actually every place we ate in Ireland was excellent and you were given more food than you could eat. After dinner and a rest at the b&b, we wanted to go out and see some music…did a few pub hops …
…and ended up being entertained for hours by this guy..didn’t catch his name…but he could sing! And had everyone singing along too…the great thing about the Irish is no matter how young, old or cool you think you are, you will find everyone joining in on a good singalong…so much fun…after singer guy a young group of lads came on with the traditional instruments and sang some good Irish tunes…

Troubled Times.

Growing up in an Canadian Irish family, you pay attention to stories from older relatives and that which is on the news to do with the so called “troubles”. During the ‘60’s and ‘70’s, being the more recent extremely bloody times in Northern Ireland, it is hard to imagine growing up in such violence. The Shankhill / Falls Road area of Belfast has known more than its fair share of turmoil and is still a fortified neighborhood in the city of Belfast. To learn more about this history, dad and I decided to take what is called a Black Cab tour…this is offered by the people who grew up and live in the said neighborhood and who obviously are well informed personally and politically about the past as well as present day goings-ons. Dads mother grew up on the Falls Road side which has become the ‘Catholic’ side. It was another intense day with the ghosts of his past…Protestants and Catholics used to live side by side, but of course because of deep rooted beliefs on both sides too much violence has since separated the two. There is a wall running between the neighborhood which runs for miles and is 25 feet tall in most places. They were originally built as temporary structures but have since become permanent. There are gates in and out of the areas that are locked at 10p.m and reopen for the working day the next morning. I was amazed and frankly a bit shocked to realize how fortified this urban, working class area is and how strange it felt to see the effort put into keeping the ‘peace’. In both areas are huge murals painted on the walls in tribute to fallen comrades and heroes of the causes. I was able to get a few pictures before my damn battery went dead(with no backup nearby) and only ones from the first part of our tour which was the Protestant area of Shankhill Road.                  

Friday, July 24, 2009

Looking for kin…

Our next day in Belfast was to be spent checking out some record offices to see if we could find out anything about dads ancestors who had all left Ireland for Canada. His grandfathers side was from the south, probably around Cork, and had left during the great famine of the 1800’s. This migration to Canada and the U.S has been well documented although if you don’t have exact dates and names it can gobble up a wack of time looking at ships records. This was the info we didn’t have but dad did know something of his grandmothers family who were mostly from Belfast. After a few leads we did come across a possible name and date of birth of his great grandfather who was a linen merchant. It was incredibly emotional for dad to have this name looking back at him from the past and even more so when we walked the streets and sat in the same parks as his relatives had done many years before. …