Tom Simard

Poetry, Music, and Prose


“A hundred cares, a tithe of troubles and is there one who understands me? One in a thousand of years of the nights?”
(James Joyce -Finnegans Wake)

Ireland is a beautiful country. Its luscious green landscape can calm the troubled soul.

800px-Akes_lough_gur_clouds_trees_Ireland(Photographer: Jon Sullivan)

Uragh_Wood(Photographer: Espresso Addict)

As an English speaker, there’s the added advantage that you’ll never struggle to communicate or make yourself understood.  There’s also that lovely Irish lilt.  It’s been a favorite of mine since I can remember and one I heard my grandmother use growing up. I always try to include a shan’t here and there in honor of her.

My grandmother and her sisters had left the poverty in Ireland for a better life, and while before their marriages they worked as domestic help in the home of one of the U.S.’ greatest railroad barons, that was the closest they would ever come to wealth; their lives were a struggle to get by.

When their parents, who had not come with them, fell ill, Mary, the oldest sister, returned to Ireland.  In the meantime, WWI broke out, and she was unable to return to America.  It was her son and family I visited.

I had not warned them I was coming, and when I arrived at the doorstep, he was not exactly sure who I was, but a little explaining convinced him, and I was welcomed into their home, where they fed me well.

One day we took a trip to see what remained of my grandmother’ s house:

picture 2 of family home in ireland

The view from it was absolutely gorgeous:

picture 1 of irish landscape

Their idea of America was greatly influenced by the movies they saw, and they just assumed everyone had a gun.  Now this was in 1984 when I’m sure everyone didn’t have a gun.  If they were to ask me now, what would I tell them? I know what the NRA would like me to tell them – no, but if they did, everyone would be a lot safer.

They believed in spirits – no, not the Holy Spirit, formerly known as the Holy Ghost, which they no doubt did believe in.  But other ones you  might have read about.  While on the side of the materialists without their rigid arrogance stance that everyone is in error and could see right if they’d just listen, I could understand as we drove through the mist like I understood on those windy roads in Germany’s deep forests how Grimms’  fairy tales had come to be.

They asked me what my parents’ reaction would be if I married a Protestant.  Their Catholicism obviously meant a lot to them in a way that it had never or would ever for me.  They took me to a place called Martyrs’ Rock where the Catholics had prayed when their religion had been forbidden under English rule.

After a few days, they drove me into the city of Sligo where I would take the train, but not before I thumbed a ride to Yeats’  grave.



I also thought to drop in and see what The Yeats Society was up to.  I can only guess they didn’t know what to make of me.  Very unlike Copenhagen a few weeks later where at the tourist bureau they put me on the phone with a Danish professor whose expertise was Kierkegaard and who was willing to meet up for a drink to talk about the great Dane:

Soren_Kierkegaard(Photographer: Sperantarice)

All roads, and train tracks for that matter, lead to Dublin.

 800px-Grafton_St,_Dublin(Photographer: Donaldytong)

 “riverrun, past Eve and Adam’s, from swerve of shore to bend of bay…”
(James Joyce – Finnegans Wake)

220px-Duclin_Liffey_Dark_2008(Photographer: Jerome)

By all means enjoy the pubs:

800px-Temple_Bar_Dublin_at_Night (Photographer Trevah)

 Whether or not Guinness is actually the emperor of malted liquors I can only say if you do drink it, you will not forget it.

If you find a place with live music, by all means indulge.  Irish music has a real soul to it.  In case you doubt me:

 Enjoy both the city and the country in this lovely enchanted isle.


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26 thoughts on “Ireland

  1. Ah, I love the emerald Isle and enjoyed your post. I am not a beer drinker at all, but did enjoy a Guinness or two while I was there. My Husband’s family comes from Ireland and we, too, had fun visiting old family places. Thanks or sharing your trip.


  2. orijinalchris on said:

    Fabulously, footstompingly, rollickingly gorgeous music! Guinness is, without doubt, a delicious drop (:


    • It is that!
      I’m really taken by the fiddle, and probably time I start making myself familiar with some fiddlers.


      • orijinalchris on said:

        You may remember our conversation about the loss of my record collection… in that were several albums of jigs and reels… hearing this made me realise i have none of those in iTunes, so I set about correcting that omission (:


      • Definitely the right thing to do.
        Give me a few names, records – it would be much appreciated. Are there any particular fiddlers you fancy?


      • orijinalchris on said:

        No particular technicians, I just love jigs and reels. I bought Frankie Gavin & DeDannan; Jigs, Reels & Rock n’roll, which is beautiful, kind of a cross between Steeleye Span and Eddie Reader. Having trouble connecting to iTunes, but will update you on what I get next.


      • Great, I’m looking forward to that.
        I’ll see what I can find online of Frankie Gavin & DeDannan.


      • orijinalchris on said:

        Well, an update… not having much luck, actually. Plenty of albums of jigs and reels, but they are all pipe/accordion-heavy, when I prefer fiddle/banjo/percussion-heavy. They are also extremely monotonous. Frankie Gavin & DeDannan were a lucky fluke… by now I’m sure you know they only did one album! I found another group DeDannan Allstars (no idea what the connection, if any, is) who also only did one album, in 1978, called The Star Spangled Molly, which is similar in format to Frankie Gavin & DeDannan, but with an awesome vaudiville/show-type voiced female singer, and an also-awesome cover of Hey Jude as a jig! I also rediscoverd Mary Black, whom I heard once twenty-odd years ago, and didn’t like, but her album Twenty-five years-twenty five songs is really gorgeous, she has a fabulous voice. So, that’s the report.


      • I can relate to what you said about the combos – I’ve never been much of an accordion man.

        Actually, there are quite a few De Dannan albums if Wikipedia is to be believed:

        Sounds good. Hey Jude a a gig! (By the way, loved Here Comes the Sun.)

        I’ll check out Mary Black, thanks.


      • orijinalchris on said:

        Yes… DeDannan, not Frankie Gavin & DeDannan! I’m listening, right now, to Anthem, by DeDannan, it’s gorgeous stuff… I especially love the female solo’s… I adore the female voice (:


  3. By the way I’ve been listening to De Dannan and have loved everything I’ve heard.
    Listening to this now:


  4. My husband and I visited Dublin and Blarney in 1989 – March, I believe. It was beautiful and we really enjoyed our stay, brief though it was. My brother told me that in the early 70s he flew over Ireland (don’t know if he was able to stop there on his way to his Army post in Germany). He still talks about how green it was and how he’d like to visit there. Thank you for the lovely photos, story and the music. ;-) (I’m part Irish, so it was wonderful to see some of my roots.)


    • You’re very welcome.
      Yes, it is an emerald isle.
      It’s great to go back and track one’s roots. I’ve done that in Ireland, Germany, and Canada. France still remains…


  5. orijinalchris on said:

    The Mary Black/DeDannan connection is that she is the singer on Anthem.


  6. Nice read.
    Been a couple of decades since I visited my multi-great grandparents places; some of the 18th houses were still occupied by cousins then. So I took a look with google earth recently but didn’t recognize much, this is Connecticut not Sligo
    But that’s unusual, an ancestral home just up the interstate… its common around here, among my generation anyway, to know more than a few souls whose grandparents—or parents—were born in an old country, Ireland or Italy usually.
    And the good music, soulful doesn’t have to be sad. I like the african-american banjo mixed in. Plus they make all look so easy.


  7. What a wonderful post! So many memories coming alive! No Irish blood, but no matter of that. Great friends there, my “Irish family”, and years studying James Joyce and Yeats and lots of the other fellas. Your quotes make me sorry I stopped with Ulysses and never tackled Finnegan’s Wake. I think I’m too old now, but perhaps —
    The photos were so well chosen too. My first reaction was to double check, ah, he says Dublin, because it looked to my memory’s eye like Galway City. A wonderful trip it must have been, and I wish you many joys of your memories.


    • I’m glad to hear you liked it.
      I hope it’s Dublin! I might check it out tomorrow to see if I can’t make sure that it is.
      I’m quite certain that if I were to try at my age now to tackle Finnegans Wake I’d not succeed. It was hard enough doing it in my twenties when apparently I had a great deal more patience with experimental prose than I do now. It seemed to me to be a great experiment in wordplay and rhythm. If you do try, I’d suggest very small parts over a very long period of time.


  8. I love Ireland, or as they say in Gaelic: Oirland us fookin brillyunt. What an amazing, friendly people–so quick to quarrel, but so quick to forgive (exceptions made for the monarchy). I was last in Europe at a time when President Bush was profoundly unpopular, and the Irish were very good about distinguishing the American from his government.


    • You’ve got that accent down….
      Yes, amazingly friendly.
      I was last there when Reagan was president, and like you said, they’re able to easily distinguish Americans from the lousy government that happens to be in power.
      I’d love to go back.


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