It’s St Paddy’s Day, patron saint of Ireland. Happy St Paddy’s Day to all my Irish friends celebrating, wherever you are in the world.
As a Scot, we have special ties with the length and breadth of the Emerald Isle, sharing a similar culture, as well as a warped sense of humour. There is a genetic bond as well as we are Celtic brethren.
I have visited Ireland several times, north and south for business, pleasure and music. I have great memories of Dublin, Belfast, Donegal to the beaches of County Clare and toured the southern coast, sampling restaurants, bars and some of the finest hospitality to be had. I even spent a couple of weeks in Kilkenny configuring a radiology system that my company installed. Great times.
On our holiday to Co Clare, Darling Daughter was two or three and we went to one of the most beautiful beaches we’ve seen. We watched her running into the waves as they came in, fully clothed. I picked her up, took her out and set her down just to see her turn tail immediately to run back in. We repeated this for a while and one of the best memories I have of Ireland.
We had a couple of trips to Donegal for the All Irish Pipe Band Championships, as well as Newcastle, Co Down. An English band making the trip across the channel to play at one of the toughest competitions outside a major. I loved playing in Letterkenny as the ring was like a natural amphitheatre, with the crowd around and above you on the mounds circling the ring. The sound was incredible and we played well both times, taking prizes and earning the respect of the local bands, which is a big thing for us. The comp in Newcastle was a bit different, with us playing brilliantly in warm up preparation for the ring and losing it big time playing, with too many mistakes. Shame, as we had been on top form ten mins earlier. The location was stunning, all in the shadow of the Mountains of Mourne, a stunning location.
Letterkenny is one of those destinations which attracts stag and hen parties to the main street crammed full of bars. Walking down the street with my mates in kit, two Irish lads lifted up the kilt of a friend, with real banter, the craic (pronounced ‘crack’) as the Irish call it. We were with my great Irish pal from up the coast in Donegal and he engaged them, asking where the drunken duo were from. County Monaghan, came the reply and I hear a bellow ‘You’re feckin chicken farmers!’, which turned out to be accurate as all hell broke loose laughing about it.
We also had a great night in a pub where Donegal got his pipes out and played for the locals, bringing the place to a near standstill playing. I recall him playing a lovely tune, which I didn’t know, and the locals singing, a couple reduced to tears, such is the Irish way.
I also recall the night when we nearly got chucked out of a hotel bar for singing the rude version of Alice, Donegal hadn’t checked into his room at 4am when out of his face and a fight was raging in the car park, which turned out to be the bride and bridesmaid from the wedding in the function room. Donegal pulls himself up to full height, adjusts his jacket and announces loudly to the male duty manager that he will handle this. No you feckin won’t, came the reply and he was handed a master key to find a room with his bandmates in it.
A pissed Irishman walking the floors of a full hotel with a master key to all the rooms. What could possibly go wrong?
Long story short, he found a room after trying many, with people he recognised and a spare berth for him, making it three in the room. The other two were fast asleep in a drunken haze. Just as one guy was waking, he heard the loud and resounding sound of breaking wind, thinking that it was not coming from the only other occupant that he knew of in the room. Turns out, that occupant heard it too, coming to the sudden realisation that someone else was not only in the room, but in the double bed along with him. Apparently, he didn’t just get out of bed but levitated, such was shock at being in bed with another bloke. As a brickie from Stevenage, as well as being somewhat curmudgeonly in nature, this was a slight against his very being…..and as the invective peppered rant was being launched in his direction very loudly, Donegal slept through it, grinding his teeth.
Ireland is a special place, a special people. The beautiful country, the irreverent humour and fascinating history is something that I treasure. The music, the wonderful linguistic nature of the language, the impromptu drinking sessions, the warm welcome.
If you’ve never been, you must go and sample it all. I’ll be back as it is the most amazing place, next to Scotland of course and it has a feeling of home about it, a comfortable place to be. I hope that when I go, Donegal is back for a visit and we can do the usual thing of getting drunk, talking crap and more shenanigans are to be had.
Happy St Paddy’s day and enjoy.