Notes from a Week in Ireland

Johnny O'Leary

I’ve submitted my story and photos to State College Magazine and now I can clean out my notebook and post what isn’t going to be in the magazine next month.

Not every church in Ireland is Catholic, as one would assume, and to add to the confusion there can be two churches with the same name, but not the same leadership. In Killarney, there are two St. Mary’s—one Catholic, one Protestant.

One of our guides asked me if I had ever heard the phrase “tomorrow for today’s bread.” I thought it might be something from a Panera ad. Turns out, what she really said was: “To Morrow for today’s bread.” Morrow was the baker’s name—and the guide’s maiden name.

We managed to get a couple of rounds of free drinks. In a restaurant on Grafton Street, the computer ate our order, which the waitress figured out only after we complained about not being served. She gave us a round of free drinks. A couple of days later there was a screw-up in our order at the hotel after the game and one of us successfully got the manager to give us a round of free drinks.

All the letters to the editor of the Irish Times end with “Yours, etc.” A quick search of the Internet reveals that it’s a Britishism and akin to Yours truly. A waste of space, if you ask me.

Speaking of words, I noticed a street in Killarney named Cuntaoise, which means countess in Gaelic. I thought it might have engendered a vulgar back-formation, but research on the vulgarism indicates an earlier derivation.

I keep telling my friends who watched Penn State come from behind to beat Central Florida that it was even more exciting to be at the game. We had seats on the 50-yard line and could cheer the team when it went into the locker room. Last to cross the field from receiving the trophy for winning the game was Coach Franklin. We cheered louder and he led us in a We are chant. The guy is definitely a college coach and I don’t think he’ll be heading to the pros in my lifetime.

Some Irishmen sat around us and actually knew something about football. After the game, the chap next to me wanted to know if the atmosphere was the same back in the States. You know the answer to that.

And to keep the Penn State connection alive, the restaurant at Kylemore Abbey was selling Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. The big obsession in the gift shop was anything connected with the film The Quiet Man, which was shot nearby.

Our guide thanked us profusely for coming to Ireland. Newspapers reported that it was a 30 million euro boost to the economy and our guide said it was helpful since Garth Brooks had cancelled a sold-out, five-night concert recently. Brooks did that after residents living near the concert site (the football stadium, no less) objected to the disruption and asked for fewer concerts. Brooks said it was five or nothing.

Ireland traces some of its roots to the Vikings, but that’s on the east coast. In Galway, we were informed, the origins were medieval and Columbus had visited there before 1492. There’s a type of boat in Galway called a hooker. I never got to photograph one, but I did drink a beer by the same name.

Oscar Wilde and his
distant cousin Eduard
in Galway
I was overwhelmed by the number of statues of people throughout Ireland, ranging from Oscar Wilde to Charlie Chaplin to Johnny O’Leary, a renowned accordion player from Killarney. I don’t remember seeing any pigeons, though. 

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