ON THE SINGLE ROAD: Dick Haggerty in Dingle
I relax with room service in my suite at Fitzpatrick Castle in Killiney, just outside Dublin. The rest of our group got back to Chicago very early this morning, but I opted for a day of recuperation before jumping back to the Chicago Gap once more.
This was my 11th trip to Ireland, my tenth leading a group of fellow Americans loving the old turf. My buddy Derry Cronin of Specialized Travel sets us up with a luxury coach and driver, (AKA Seanachai), as we travel through Éire in search of the spirits of our ancestors. Our traveling “Hooley” can last from a week to ten days, with groups as small as 7 or as large as 50, most of us drinking as if heading for the electric chair. it makes memories!
What I have learned over the years is that Ireland is a land of epiphanies. “The spirit speaks louder in Ireland” and it was there that I “found my fortune in my Irish heritage”. It’s a ‘pilgrimage’ in every sense of the word, and our groups have discovered divinity here at every turn, whether it’s a miracle among us in Mayo at Our Lady of Knock Shrine or sheepdogs rubbing our boots in Dingle! This place is special. This is where they invented Halloween for sake!
This year’s group of 17 was particularly sublime, a lovely mix of family and friends, many of whom had traveled with us before. And only two pains in the ass, coincidentally!
I won’t name names, but neither Motormouth Murphy nor Awake Beulah the barfly could deter the wit and humor of this year’s hooligan group in Ireland. We had an absolute blast.
We started, as we always do, at Fitz Castle, the perfect place to beat the jet lag before boarding the bus and heading to Cork City the next morning.
Our star guest this year was once again “The Darlin’ Girl from Clare”, fiddler, singer and dancer Eimear Arkins, a phenomenally talented young woman from the small town of Ruan in Banner County. Eimear traveled with us the whole way, telling stories, singing songs in Irish and English and reminding us all of our status as ‘culture warriors’ for Éire.
We were also joined once again by our childhood friend Dennis Kearns and old pals The Haggerty Brothers; Dick and Billy and his daughter Sabrina, (a young gun if ever there was one), and sisters Martha and Phyllis, aka “Aunt Fifi”.
This year also saw the return of Robert “Moon” Mullins from Dallas, a retired international ghost and former military intelligence operative. Moon’s insight and puzzled reactions to our antics brought a lot of laughs. He also likes Irish whiskey.
And retired Chicago Fire Department ‘chief’ Mike Miller certainly didn’t disappoint as he held down ‘third base’ and drank them gin in nearly every pub along the way. The chef has been on all trips so far but threatens never to return unless Aer Lingus offers a faster route. When a tour guide at the castle asked our group how long we were here, Mike told her, “Until we ran out of underwear!”
Add Maureen O’Casey and her sister Denise from the Southside and you have a full-fledged party on wheels.
This year our first spiritual moment occurred at Cahir Castle in County Tipperary. We were assembled in a large cavernous room with a set of dinosaur antlers mounted on the wall, and Eimear said off the cuff, “I have a song that might be appropriate.”
She then launches into a hypnotic rendition of Slán Le Máigh, Farewell to the Maigue, an 18th century lament written by the Irish poet Aindrias Mac Craith (1708-1795), who lived along the Maigue River. The room was hypnotized and it seemed as she sang the song that a spirit was taking over her being and channeling itself through Eimear. You do not believe me ? You can watch it here:
I’m sure this former poet felt the same remorse as I do today leaving Ireland for Chicago. And as the boss predicted, I’m out of underwear.
See you next year, Slan! Onward to Éire 2023!