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Monday, July 18, 2016

Irish Inspiration

My husband and I spent ten days touring Ireland earlier this month. We covered much of the larger half of the country, but did not make it to Belfast. I came back to Oregon with a better understanding of how the country’s natural beauty coupled with its history inspired many of its authors and poets.

I have always been amazed at how such a small country could produce so many noted writers: George Bernard Shaw, William Butler Yeats, James Joyce, Samuel Beckett, and Sean O’Casey, for example. After motoring through the gorgeous green countryside and learning about the hardships the Irish people have endured over the centuries, the inspiration to wax poetic (Yeats) or write ironic prose (Jonathan Swift) became obvious.

Rebellions and revolutions shape much of the Irish psyche. We toured Kilmainham Prison in Dublin where many involved in the 1916 Easter Rising were housed before being executed in the prison’s yard. Built in 1796, the prison’s cold, dark walls seemed to echo the misery of the prisoners housed in its bleak cells.
We also visited Glasnevin Cemetery where Michael Collins, revered leader of the struggle for Irish independence, is buried. The 1996 movie, Michael Collins, starring Liam Leeson was one of the options offered by Aer Lingus on the flight over and back. Dick and I both watched it, giving us additional insight into the turmoil that took place in Ireland during the early twentieth century. There was brutality on both the British and Irish sides of that conflict.

It’s the civilians that suffer, when there’s an ambush they don’t know where to run. Shot in the back to save the British Empire. Shot in the breast to save the soul of Ireland. I believe in the freedom of Ireland and that England has no right to be here, but I draw the line when I hear the gunmen blowing about dying for the people when it’s the people that are dying for the gunmen. Sean O’Casey
The Irish people had to work hard, eking out a living on stony glacial moraines. For centuries few owned the land they worked, and when the potato famine hit in the 1840’s, it was the poor farmers who starved. Those who were able to flee crowded onto small ships headed for America. We toured a replica of one of those boats and viewed the cramped steerage where over one hundred emigrants were packed. With a 20% date rate common during Atlantic crossings, the boats came to be called “coffin ships.”

           “Faeries, come take me out of this dull world,
            For I would ride with you upon the wind
            Run on the top of the disheveled tide,
            And dance upon the mountains like a flame.”
                                                            W.B. Yeats
On the brighter side, the countryside is green and gorgeous, peppered with sheep and small, well-tended farms. Flowers and trees thrive in the rainy climate, and every farm seems to have a garden. The whole of it creates a picture perfect landscape.
“The best place to find God is in a garden. You can dig for him there.” George Bernard Shaw

Our tour guide asked us to write limericks since the city of Limerick was part of our tour. Mine went like this:
           “We gathered from far and wide
            In Ireland to abide.
            We learned about Guinness,
            And soon it was in us
            For a rollikin’, cracky ride.”
                                    Ginger Dehlinger

What tripe compared to the Irish writers, but fun. J

Kilmainham Prison

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