Life Lesson 18: There is Something Special about the Irish

“There are only two kinds of people in the world. The Irish and those who wish they were.”

Before retiring to Spain with my hubby Rick, we lived in Ireland together for more than one year. While working as a database administrator for a big Chicago bank, Rick had heard about an opportunity to transfer to a position in Limerick and he asked me if he should apply for it. I said sure, as I was ready to leave Chicago and its terrible winter weather. So he moved “across the pond” in January 2016 and I joined him six months later after retiring from my teaching position and selling our Chicagoland home.

Thus began our adventure. We really knew very little about the Emerald Isle before moving there. I had traveled there once before with my mother and could see that it was a very green place and Dublin was its biggest city. I had also heard of William Butler Yeats, an Irish poet, as my mother wanted to visit a place that commemorated him when we visited in 1980. She was a high school English teacher and knew about such literary greats as Yeats. Back then, I also learned we had relatives from Ireland on my mother’s side of the family, including in Dublin and in the town of Armagh in Northern Ireland. Since my mother died in 2004, going back to Ireland was also a good way to reconnect with my memories of us there together. So, without further ado, here’s what I learned about Irish people through living there.

They are among the friendliest people in the world. The Republic of Ireland only has about 5 million people in it. Chicagoland, by contrast, has 9.5 million people. So you can see that Ireland is a small country, where people treat each other with kindness and respect, almost like you are a member of one big extended family. At least, that was my experience.

Irish people are funny too and have no problem making fun of you or themselves. They never seem to be haughty or full of themselves. One of my favorite books is Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt. His memoir of his life in Limerick was full of humorous stories. Of course, it was also quite sad at times, given the death of family members and the grinding poverty he experienced as a child.

Irish people love music too and enjoy getting together to perform it. There were so many pubs in Ireland where you could go for a pint and watch live music performed by a variety of talented musicians at no charge. This has to be one of the best things about visiting the country too.

Irish musicians performing in a pub.

So Irish people, in my humble opinion, are friendly, funny and love music. Of course, there are exceptions to any generalization about people from one place, just as you cannot say all Americans are bigots, just the ones who voted for Trump. LOL. But this was my impression of Irish people while living there. Here are some experiences I had that illustrate their friendliness. I took a weekly yoga class in Limerick and made several friends there. In time, I was invited to an art show opening for one of the yoga devotees. Some of us went to her show together and I was so impressed with her ceramic work that I bought one of her pieces to give to my yoga class. This inspired her to take me and another mutual friend to the Burren, the source of her inspiration. Here is a photo I took of the Burren.

The Burren is located in Western Ireland.

It’s very beautiful in the Burren and I can see why my artist friend Noreen was inspired to make art from the images she saw there. She showed me the particular site which inspired her to create the framed ceramic piece I bought for the yoga class.

Here is a photograph I took of the arch that inspired Noreen’s artwork.

Noreen wanted me to have some of her art for myself, to take with me when I left Ireland. So she gave me the framed work she produced that is shown below. It, in turn, was inspired by a well-known ancient burial site in the Burren. See photo beneath framed ceramic artwork.

This is called Poulnabrone dolmen (portal tomb).
It is believed to be an ancient burial site.

This portal tomb dates to the Neolithic period, probably between 4200 BC and 2900 BC! It the best known and most widely photographed of the approximately 172 dolmens in Ireland. For more information about this stone structure, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poulnabrone_dolmen#:~:text=Poulnabrone%20dolmen%20(Poll%20na%20Br%C3%B3n,Burren%2C%20County%20Clare%2C%20Ireland.

So that is just one example of an Irish person who was kind to me. Another friend I made in yoga, Deirdre, invited me overnight to her house near Limerick and to her country home in West Cork. She knew one of my best American friends had taken her life while I lived in Ireland. As a result, I was planning to walk in a fundraiser for Pieta House, a group that provides free counseling for people affected by the suicide of loved ones. Deirdre got up with me at 3:30 in the morning and we drove together from her house to participate in the Darkness into Light annual 5 kilometer walk to raise funds for Pieta House. I felt strongly about this group since they helped me cope with the death of my dear friend through free counseling. Here is a photo I took from the walk.

Darkness Into Light Walk held in Limerick in May 2017.

I could share more about other lovely Irish friends but I want to move on to Irish humor now. Here is a photo I took of a T-shirt an Irish man was selling in the famous English Market in Cork.

Irish people are funny!

Here are more funny signs we saw in Ireland:

The Irish sense of humor is playful!

The Irish also love music, and I do as well. While in Ireland, I sang in the Limerick Choral Union and we performed several concerts of sacred works at the University of Limerick. I also traveled up to Armagh, in Northern Ireland, to do genealogical research about my mothers’ ancestors. While there, I got to sing with world renowned British composer John Rutter and about 200 Irish people in an Anglican church. So that was a peak musical experience for me!

Remember I said I wanted to go to Ireland with my husband in part to reconnect with memories of my mother, who I still miss terribly, even though she died 17 years ago. While in Armagh, I went back to the church steps where I had gone with her about 40 years earlier. Here is a photo of the two of us together on the same steps. The left hand photo of my lovely mother was taken by me while the photo on the right was taken by a kind stranger. This way, there is now one photo of us there together, if only in spirit.

My mother and me in the same place, separated only by time.

Life lesson: Irish people are lovely. If you ever have a chance to visit Ireland, please take it. You won’t regret it. They are a kind, funny and music-loving people. But make sure to bring your umbrella or raincoat because it rains a real lot there. Notice how my mother and I are both holding onto raincoats in the photo?

17 thoughts on “Life Lesson 18: There is Something Special about the Irish

  1. I enjoyed our time in Ireland. The people really make up for the weather. :-). Still many more places to explore. I’m so glad we lived there. Hubby

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for your lovely words Nancy. It was lovely to meet you when you lived in Ireland and to share travelling with you to special places like the Burren and West Cork. Also glad to share my art work and its inspiration with you.
    You look so like your Mother in that photo!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Noreen. Thanks so much. I am so glad to hear from you and know that you are okay with my sharing your art work and its inspiration with me on my blog. You are a very talented artist! I hope you are continuing to produce great works that capture scenes of Ireland. And you are right. I do look a lot like my mom! She was a published author and a teacher too.

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  3. Apart from being an enjoyable post I am immensely flattered by your description of the Irish, being Irish myself although a longtime resident of the UK. I am glad you enjoyed your time there and you are right, of course, about the sense of humour (more edgy in the North than the South) and the musical evenings in the pubs. That is one thing I do miss here. I don’t miss the rain and the grey skies but let’s face it, the weather keeps the glorious beaches from being overrun with tourists, and the quiet spots remain quiet for the same reason. Now enjoy Spain, another country I love.

    Liked by 1 person

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