The West's Awake by Cormac MacConnell
All’s well in the west of Ireland
Posted on Thursday, April 29, 2010 at 10:21 AM
- Remembering Jimjoejoe’s innocent life and rare talent
- The bonding nature of the spud and a lesson the modern Irish potato and its realities
- Living off the land, GAA sporting pride and economic woes bring sad times too
- Ireland’s weather, Black and Tans, The Gathering and a song for shy singers
- An open letter to President Obama - some handy local tips for his visit to Ireland
This is still one mighty little country.
It still has a heart of the purest gold. It continues to have its sense of humor, its quirkiness, the ability to laugh at itself just when laughter is necessary.
I met a frail man walking slowly down a loughside road beneath Mullaghmore Mountain in the Burren this afternoon. He was putting a fair bit of weight on one of those new-fangled aluminum walking sticks. He told me he is recovering from a hip replacement operation.
And he added that while it did not please him to need a walking stick, he was still delighted to be helping out the economy. Somewhere around Dublin, he added, there was a factory making the sticks, and he was helping to put a week's wages in some young worker's pocket.
And he continued that, even with one leg, he would go down to the nearby village of Corofin at the May weekend for the All-Ireland stone throwing championships. If he took a couple of half-ones he might even be able to compete. He was a great thrower of stones in his youth. That's the spirit.
What was also lovely was that we had time for a chat, even though we did not know each other from Adam. The conversation was as rambling as the mountain.
We talked the weather, agreed that Mayo would not win the football league final in Croke Park (they didn’t), and, by coincidence, had both been listening a few days ago to a fine RTE documentary about a Nenagh man called Joe Pat Molloy who left home because he was not into farming away back in the late Thirties.
He became in due time the head of the Plasterers' Union in San Francisco. My companion told me his own brother got a job through Joe Molloy. He confirmed what that man said about how he helped young Irishmen get jobs in construction there.
When they arrived on his doorstep he had to ask them if they had a Social Security number. Normally they had not. Molloy told RTE himself he would then send them to another man to "advise" them how to get one.
He would not name that individual -- surely another Irishman -- but shortly afterwards the immigrant would be back with his new number and Joe would find him a job. The Irish look after each other.
My companion said his brother " never looked back" and added that Molloy was very famous in San Francisco, commonly seen driving a Mercedes with a customized number plate called NENAGH!
Probably some of you know him out there. Tell him a man on an aluminum walking stick sent him the family's thanks for the good turn for the brother from the bottom of Mullaghmore Mountain in Clare.
Blessed with continuing good weather, that mountainy chat came after an intriguingly quirky week which goes back to my main point that Ireland still has a heart of gold.
I wrote a column elsewhere about a fortnight ago about the fact that my goose wing had been worn away by about six years of hard work and that I was bereft. Those of you who were reared in country houses of the past know just how valuable a goose wing is for dusting and especially for reaching into every nook and cranny around the hearth.
It is flexible, functional, beautiful, lightweight and it fits perfectly into your hand. You cannot buy anything nearly so useful anywhere in this New Ireland. I bemoaned my loss in print (another evening's work for me; a job of journeywork for a hack) and promptly forgot about it.
The brown envelopes and packages began arriving at Maisie's Cottage before the week was out. The first one came from a decent man in Killaloe.
The second one arrived from a decent woman in Annascaul in Kerry. This one was just the wing wrapped in brown paper, the shape of the wing clearly defined. I wondered what the postman thought of it!
Another dozen or so arrived in ones or two, all with good wishes attached. On Friday a shoebox arrived packed with wings from Tony and Margaret O'Regan of Ballyviniter in Mallow, who operate a huge free range geese operation down there.
My Cork neighbor across the road told me that Tony and Margaret raise both the sweetest and largest geese in Munster. True enough some of the wings were as long as my arm!
The envelopes keep a-coming. Almost all have greetings attached. I now have enough wings for the rest of my dusting life.
I am responding to that by distributing a few to people who appreciate the like.
One went this morning to my good friend, the novelist, broadcaster and musicologist P.J. Curtis of Kilnaboy. He mounted it on the breast of the chimney with as much pleasure as he got from finishing his new novel last month. That's another story I will tell ye later before the summer meanderings begin again through this wonderland of a place called the west.
There is a new railway line opened this summer between Limerick and Galway I have to explore yet and the fabled old West Clare is puffing away again, and since I am now a pensioner I have a free travel pass I have not used yet at all.
Sunshine, a cupboard full of virginal goose wings, a free travel pass, a brace of our own brown eggs every morning, the Honk in the velvet evenings and the football championships starting in only a matter of weeks.
Recession, what is that yoke can anyone tell me?