All joking aside the road to Tipperary was long! But it was well worth the time.
The hotel were welcoming of us and our puppies, the bar was just as you would imagine and the craic was great.
We arrived late on Saturday afternoon to a the small medieval town of Cahir. With it’s castle and beautiful park. I couldn’t believe that it was only fifteen minutes from my dad’s hometown and yet in all the times I had been to Ireland I had never been to this town before.
We met my cousin Paddy and his lovely wife Noreen for a meal and catch up. I have written about Paddy often before and whenever we all meet up it as if we have always been in close contact. We talked about family and the history of the family. Of how hard people’s lives had been at times. I talked of my dad, a highly intelligent man who I wished with all my heart had had the opportunity to go to university and become the great scholar that he could have been; and of Paddy’s mother, my father’s sister, auntie Lal; she had a hard life in so many ways, and my dad always had such a soft spot for her. I didn’t realise how young she was when she died, fifty-nine is no age at all. Paddy was just sixteen. We parted ways with a promise to go back to Tipperary in the Spring, our stay this time was a short three days which is no time at all.
After a ‘Full Irish’ breakfast on Sunday morning we set of to visit some of the many relatives that I have in and around Ardfinnan and Clonmel in Tipperary. I missed my cousin Martina, who now runs the shop my Auntie Hattie used to own. It had changed so much but I still remember the many times my cousins and I would sneak into the shop after closing time to take enormous amounts of sweets and crisps. My Auntie Hattie was a softly spoken, kind lady, who I last saw twenty two years ago when she visited England to see my dad who by then was in a care home after suffering numerous debilitating strokes. I can remember her sitting in my sisters garden and crying, there has always been a great deal of empathy in the Walsh family. This trip emphasised to me where I get so many of my traits from, I am more Irish than English I think.
Next stop was a visit to my cousin Tom. I haven’t seen him in eight years, the last time was when he came over to England when my sister married. The time has flown. As we knocked on his door it was absolutely tipping down with rain (it is Ireland after all!). We totally surprised them and I felt guilty when the offered a cup of tea turned into sandwiches and cake as well. It brought back memories of the we would have to visit all of the family to say goodbye and at every home they would lay the table and bring out homemade bread, in some cases freshly made butter and milk directly from the cow (sometimes still warm!) After visiting at least nine houses you could hardly walk back to the car!
Sitting in Tom’s dining room it brought back memories of my auntie Maureen’s kitchen, which is now Tom’s dining room, and all the times she made me the most delicious breakfasts. Of my uncle Tommy, ever the raconteur, with his fabulous stories. So many memories. It’s funny how we all remember things, and times gone bye, and find it sad when they have inevitably changed over the passage of time. It had been over thirty seven years since I last visited Tipperary.
Despite being with Tom and Collette for over two hours the rain did not let up, in fact it was getting heavier and we said our goodbyes and made our way back to the hotel for a drink in the bar and some dinner. It was good to experience the craic and chat with others. but as the night wore on a severe weather warning had been announced and we sat in the bar looking out of the window in awe as the rain hit the ground so hard it bounced a meter back up.
The next day after another obligatory full Irish I wanted to show RD some of the things that were clearly etched in my memory. Places I had visited so often with my dad. So we set off to the Knockmealdown Mountains.
This is the place I can remember, sending with my dad so many times and looking out across this view and thinking ‘There really are more than forty shades of green!’
Ireland is such a beautiful place. The Emerald Isle is a fitting title. RD was mesmerised. It was poignant for me because my dad always loved to come her and look at the view; and it made me realise how hard it must have been for him to leave this place each time and return to our industrial town in the U.K.
Bay Lough was one of those places. Set in the Knockmealdown Mountains the story is that the Lough is bottomless. Fed by the Glens that may well be the truth. My cousin Tom told me the obligatory horror stories of how people were murdered and thrown into the Lough so that their bodies were never found. That it was said you could often hear screams and frowns coming from it and echoing around the mountains. There is, of course, a witch that is also linked to the Lough. Petticoat Loose was her name.
We then found a little wood, full of fairy doors, to walk the dogs, the sun was finally shining, and whe whole place just seemed magical.
Coming down from the mountains we tried to find the house where my dad was born, and to visit another aunt. But due to the rain the roads were blocked by floods and we had to abandon that idea. But late that evening we visited another second cousin, Elaine, and my cousin Marin and his lovely wife Margaret came to her house to see us, along with my second cousin Conor and his son from the next generation. I last saw my cousin Martin twenty five years ago when he came to England for my mum’s funeral. Bless him, always a kind and sensitive man, he looked at me with tears in his eyes and said ‘You look just like your mother.’ My mum’s loved Martin, she took him under her wing so to speak, and he clearly always loved her for it.
Our stay was short, and we didn’t have enough time to see everyone, two full days was just not enough. On our last day we set off earlier than planned as the nights are drawing in. But we vowed to return one day.
All through our time there I just wished my dad could have been there too. And I came to understand the man more. I believe he was there, in spirit.