Today's Irish Magic

“Aye, what can I get you lass?”

“A pot of tea, please.”

“T’at’s grand, and you sir?”

“A cappuccino.”

“Hmpph,” the shop assistant grunted and turned away, returning a few moments later with the brews, ceremoniously placing my tea on the table before nonchalantly putting down the coffee. I instantly fell in love with, and felt at home in, Ireland, where I was visiting as my last country stopover after being in England and continental Europe during my first ever overseas trip in June-July 2004.

I had been doubly driven to visit Ireland after my participation in the Darwin Rose pageant in April-May. During the pageant I prepared and delivered a public speech on my Irish heritage, the task had given me the shove I needed to actually followup with my grandmother about the family’s Irish connection, which was to become the basis of my journey in Ireland. Gran’s great-grandparents, Bridget and Thomas Hayes from Co. Clare, had purchased tickets to sail to the USA but were late arriving at the docks, missing their ship and watching the rest of their family float away to America. So, Bridget, who was several months pregnant, and Thomas, fast-talked their way onto the next available ship, thus finding themselves bound for Australia. While at sea Bridget gave birth and named the baby after the ship, Maria Hay (Hayes). They landed in Geelong, Victoria, and made home on the coast and in the state which was to become synonymous with the Irish.

Now, back to my visit and the first stop, Dublin. Being a writer meant I felt right at home in the city where the Book of Kells is on permanent display at Trinity College and is home to the Writers’ Museum, which is next door to the Irish Writers’ Centre. This museum recounts the development of Ireland’s literary history and includes their prominent (and not just James Joyce with whom they are obsessed) and not-so prominent writers.

I then visited the National Library where I gained some tips and inside knowledge on the best way to continue tracing my family history, namely to pay a visit to the Clare Heritage Centre.

So, my fiancé and I set out on a four-day journey around the southern coast to get there. I had difficulty keeping my mind and eyes on the road, as not only was it warmer than London had been, but was I amazed by (and it may seem like stating the obvious but I grew up in drought-stricken rural Australia) the glowing emerald-green hillside.

The famous Waterford crystal factory was our first stop and we were blown away by the brilliance of the showroom, and a ring in particular caught our eye. It was a thick gold band with green and clear crystals interspersed with the claddagh symbol. “That would’ve been a much better engagement ring,” chirped my fiancé (he didn’t take the hint to get it anyway).

We then made our way along many narrow, windy roads to Cobh, Co. Cork, the last port to see the Titanic before she sank (back then, the town was Queenstown). This was the place the owner of the B&B we had stayed at in Waterford had recommended, and I was glad we followed her suggestion. We lingered in the heritage centre which documents Ireland’s migration and shipping history, using visual artefacts, multimedia displays, and interactive screens. This helped me gain insight into the context of the Hayes’ departure from Ireland, and of Australian colonial history: ‘the English and Irish authorities sent the scum of their society to Australia.’ Truly!

Back on the touristy trail, I kissed the Blarney Stone to receive the ‘gift of the gab’, though I really didn’t need any more help in that area. Then onto Tralee, Co. Kerry, where I visited the very rose garden featured in the song, ‘Rose of Tralee’; a song written by a poet inspired by true love which was tragically cut short by fate.

But, the county from which I am descended continued to beckon me, and I soon became transfixed by the beauty of the Cliffs of Moher before being pulled towards Ennis. We arrived there late on a Friday night and to my dismay, discovered that the Clare Museum was closed on Saturday’s.

Well, so as not to spoil our remaining day in Ireland we drove to the Rock of Cashel, a castle built on a hill in the middle of flat plains. It was here that I found out why the Irish flag is tricolour, ‘green and orange with peace between’. My imagination immediately conjured the image of my grandparents, Gran is Catholic and my Grandfather was Protestant (he converted when they married). He was also an American, to which I think of as a quirky twist of fate that brought the Hayes’ line in connection with the nation they had originally intended to migrate to.

So, after a few short days in the Emerald Isle I felt spiritually content, and not just because I was a tea-drinker in a country that prefers tea to coffee (the way it should be). I now know why their history is so full of stories and images about mystical leprechauns and pots of gold; the land itself hums with the spirit of magic and adventure.

Today's Irish Magic

Catherine C.  Turner

Joined January 2008

  • Artist

Artist's Description

This story was submitted and accepted for publication in the Canberra Irish Club’s publication ‘Ar Ais Aris – Back Again’ in 2005.

Some day I will have more essay/non-fiction

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