|Illustration by Caty Bartholomew|
Are you a McGrath clansman or woman, or do you have any of that clan's very green blood flowing through your system?
Or are you one of the world's many O'Briens from the old Irish bloodline featuring politics and wars and imposing castles?
Or are you in any way genetically connected to the millions of MacNamaras we have bequeathed to a grateful world?
If so, then these hints are especially for you if making a trip to Ireland anytime soon. But they are also for the benefit of all.
Any time I make a worthwhile discovery on this unique country I don't keep it to myself. I pass it on.
Any time I encounter a McGrath I find myself meeting a fusion of friendliness and force. They are a unique clan altogether.
It is typical of them that, some years ago, wandering through New York alone, I walked into a bright pub which may well have been called the Black Sheep, and within minutes discovered the flamboyant landlord was a McGrath from my own county.
Not alone that, but he had just completed a coast-to-coast run across America and was still wearing the battered trainers that had pounded out every mile along with him!
I grew up in McGrath territory and they were always colorful and different. Their ancestors, for example, were the boatmen and keepers that kept the penitential island of Lough Derg running smoothly down the centuries.
There was an amazing Donegal bishop away back in medieval times called Miler McGrath, and I think he was as skilled as a politician and warrior as he was in religion.
He was appointed an archbishop, and when he moved to Cashel and Tipperary many of his clan moved down there with him. It is said that it was they who put the extra sauce and skill into Tipperary hurling centuries later!
Yes the McGraths are something else and, through marriage and wars, they have always been connected with the O'Briens and the MacNamara clans.
So, for everybody, but especially for McGraths, can I powerfully commend a holiday interval in a heartland of theirs which I did not know existed until last week.
It is located behind the village of Clarecastle on the main Limerick-Galway road only about 30 minutes from Shannon Airport.
Where Clarecastle bends in the middle near Power's Pub you head straight on out the Kildysart Road, and if you follow the brown IMECO signs you will quickly find yourself in Islandmcgrath, a world of its own.
It is maybe indicative that one of the sights of Islandmcgrath, indicative of the resilience of the McGraths, is a large sycamore tree, felled by gales in 1995, still healthily growing away!
There is a paradise here on Islandmcgrath for young and old, but maybe especially for the young of today's different world.
The Eco Centre has every kind of course in renewable energy under the sun for those with green minds, but these are supplemented by a thousand sights and sounds and activities for the young, the nature things many of them see for the first time if they are from urban environments.
They can meet up with newborn lambs, with pink piglets, with rabbits and hamsters, with bantam hens and a bantam rooster with the strut of the king of the world.
There is a bouncing castle and a maze and a cafe and a million pedal buggies to ride upon through playgrounds. There are even (caged) reptiles here to round their eyes with wonder. A million healthy outdoor things for them to do and see.
I am not in the business of "plugging" ventures or attractions, but this Eco Centre on Islandmcgrath is as different and stimulating as the clan after whom it is named.
Here, long ago for example, lived the great harp presented by the Pope to the clan of Brian Boru. It is believed to have been played sometimes by the legendary Maire Ruadh of North Clare.
It was eventually presented to Trinity College in Dublin, and its image has long been adopted as the official emblem of the Irish State. There it is on every state document, and there ever has been since the establishment of the Republic.
Especially if you are a McGrath, do try to get to amazing Islandmcgrath before you die.
I have no hesitation in adding the website for this compact paradise -- www.imecofarm.com
-- for those who are interested, that here they can even teach you how to thatch a cottage and keep bees!