When I first started writing up the trip, I was hoping to keep up the pace of submitting something new each day until I was finished. But that’s starting to become a challenge as I begin to resume the regular day-to-day schedule of my routine. In the week since I returned, there has been a lot of ‘catch-up’ work involved with my day job and some other activities that have conspired to prevent me from finishing the write up. It’s not that I’m on a tight schedule to finish this trip report; I just want to get it committed to writing before I forget the details of the trip. My purpose in writing the report is to have a record of it for the future so that it will be easier to remember. I also wanted to put it in a weblog format to give some others who may stumble across it some incentive to embark on similar adventures.
I have a book entitled Trout Fishing written by Charley Dickey and Fred Moses and the preface has the best reasoning I’ve ever read to engage in one’s hobbies, interests, and traveling adventures. It centers around the concept of a Memory Bank.
“…everyone should open a Memory Bank account. As quickly as you open the account, you should begin making deposits. Every hunting or fishing trip is a deposit. The more trips you make, if only for an hour or two, the richer you become.
You may withdraw any of the memories at any time, mull them over, relive them, and dream about them. There is no penalty for withdrawal because the memories go right back into the bank. There is no way you can lose on a Memory Bank account. It’s fully insured and guaranteed for life. Each memory deposit makes you richer!
The Memory Bank account is also a savings for your old age. When you’re too old to get out of the rocking chair on the front porch, you rock gently and let the memories drift through your mind as softly as sand grains in an hourglass. When you don’t have enough strength to push the cat off your lap, you ease back and smile because you were farsighted enough to make a bonanza of deposits. It’s an open account, always ready to be drawn upon.
Of course, there’s a catch, No one can make deposits for you. No rich uncle can leave them to you. No one else can transfer his memory account to you. All of the deposits must be made by you. There will always be urgent family or job affairs trying to prevent you from making deposits. Many obstacles will spring up to block you, but if you make the effort you can become as rich as you want.”
Now, I’ll get back to the trip. We awoke on Friday after a pleasant night’s sleep with the hope that we’d get a call that our luggage had arrived. After calling the lost baggage counter, we found that no planes had made it into Shannon that morning due to bad weather the previous evening on the east coast of the U.S. So we went to breakfast and stopped by the front desk to ask for a late checkout. If our luggage didn’t make it that day, the lost baggage counter assured us they could deliver it to Nenagh the next day. But no sooner did we finish breakfast that we got a call letting us know that our luggage was at the airport and we could come out to get it. That was quite a relief.
After picking up the luggage, we made arrangements to meet with my cousin, John Hayes, at whose house we’d be staying the first few days.
Ten of my first cousins on my mom’s side of the family were born in Ireland and six of them decided to emigrate to the U.S. to seek their fortunes. John was among the first of them to emigrate. Since he was the eldest son in his family, he could have stayed in Ireland and inherited the farm, but farm work didn’t appeal to him and so he decided to come to the U.S. and find work that was more to his liking. He ended up in Alaska working on the pipeline. He’s been quite successful and he has places now in both New York and Ireland and lives between both countries. He wasn’t scheduled to be in Ireland when we arrived but had generously offered to let us to stay at his house. In the meantime he’d embarked on a new project to build and even grander house there and so had many associated errands that required meeting with the builder, architect, engineer, and various contractors. Thus he needed to make an impromptu visit to Ireland that overlapped with ours.
To say John is obsessed with houses and construction would be an understatement. He’s so passionate about it that it rubs off on you after talking to him for just a short while. So it was quite fortunate that our schedules overlapped, because John took the time to give us the grand tour of County Tipperary, something I’d later refer to as ‘John’s Parade of Homes’, which was simply amazing. Houses are being built all over the place, many of them large and expensive, and John was able to provide details about nearly all of them.
John seems to know everyone. Despite being away from Ireland for most of the past 40 years, John was continually greeted by friends on the street, in the stores, and even at stoplights as we traveled around. All the while he was lamenting about how he barely knew anyone in Nenagh anymore. Yet I’d be hard pressed to find anyone better connected than John.
In addition to visiting with John, we got to spend time with his brothers, Tom and Pat and their families who live close by. We saw the original Hayes family farm and other housing projects underway by family members and relatives. We even visited some authentic Irish pubs in out-of-the way places and had a great time experiencing the Irish culture and catching up with everyone. As a special bonus for us, my cousin Kathleen, John’s sister, who lives in Seattle, had also made last minute plans to visit to Ireland while accompanying her husband on a trip to the UK and Sicily. Thus, we’d later be able to spend a pleasant afternoon with her and a few other relatives when she caught up with us in Kilkenny.
It’s hard to pinpoint the source of economic prosperity that has swept through Ireland in the past 20 years. For more than 100 years, the primary export from Ireland was its people, some of whom were so desperate to escape that they took jobs as domestics and low wage laborers in other countries. My mother was one of them. Then, about 20 years ago, I started hearing stories how that had all changed and the economy was booming with so much work available that it was no longer necessary to emigrate to seek one’s fortune. For the first time in history, people were actually returning to Ireland after living abroad. I’d asked lots of people while I was there about their opinions of the cause of this new-found prosperity, but have yet to get a consistent answer. Much of it appears to stem from the housing construction industry, yet housing construction seems like it’s an effect, not a primary cause, of prosperity. Some say it’s the inclusion in the EU which, due to an educated but underemployed work force, has allowed Ireland to take jobs from other European nations. A few mentioned something the government did with the tax laws to attract multinational corporations, all whom now seem to be represented in and around Dublin.
I’m sure it’s a combination of all of these effects, but perhaps it’s also related to the attitude of the Irish people who are open and welcoming to others from around the world. This attitude helps to attract corporations and jobs where some historically better-positioned countries have engaged in behaviors that favor their own citizens and local companies at the expense of ideas, people, and companies from the ‘outside’…