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Irish people make trip memorable

June 03, 2007|By KATE COLEMAN

A line in "Danny Boy" -"But come ye back when summer's in the meadow" - can send my heart flying to Ireland as if it were an Aer Lingus jumbo jet.

I went to Ireland three summers ago. Though I never had set foot on the "Old Sod" before, I experienced a distinct sense of homecoming.

Yes, some of my ancestors are Irish. My maternal grandmother, then a 17-year-old Margaret Teehan, left County Kerry about 100 years ago.

That might be part of what made me feel so connected, but it was the Ireland I experienced myself that made me so comfortable.

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I traveled with friends, Sally and Tom Sayers of Boonsboro, and we met up with members of Tom's family who journeyed from their homes in England. Our hillside cottage above southwestern Ireland's Inch Beach looked across Dingle Bay to the gentle ridges of Kerry.

Inch is a few miles from Annascaul, the tiny village where Tom's dad grew up.

We heard wonderful fiddle-guitar-and-concertina music at Foley's pub. It was crowded, but patrons moved over and made room for us - what I came to know as the Irish way.

My daughter, Maggie, traveled with us. We had a wonderful time, and her patience and navigational skills were essential when I drove up the Emerald Isle's west coast in a rental car with its steering wheel on the right side. I still am amazed that I made it to Galway, driving on the wrong side of the road, not hitting any of the sheep that roam the byways, never scraping the stone walls that border many of the narrow rural routes.

We day-tripped from a bed and breakfast, taking a ferry filled with Gaelic-speaking middle-schoolers to Innisheer, the smallest of the Aran Islands. We toured its four square miles in a pony-drawn cart, passing castle ruins, stopping to walk the rocky shore near a rusty shipwreck.

The beauty of Ireland thrilled me, but it was the people who made my Irish adventure so excellent.

Here are a few memories:

·A gentleman farmer began a pub conversation not by asking me, "What's your sign?" but with a quintessentially Irish opening line: "Didn't see you in church this mornin'."

·When hopelessly lost on a rainy night in Galway, the cab driver I asked for directions told me to "stay close" and led me to the door of our destination.

·In an Indian restaurant in that city, we chatted with two young tour-bus drivers, one wiping sweat from his face, laughing and vowing never again to eat such spicy food.

The fellow with bolder tastes apologized as he reached to sample Maggie's entre. His familiarity didn't seem out of line.

·A man - with untamed white hair and sparkling brown eyes - boarded the train we traveled to Dublin and provided one of the most memorable afternoons of our trip.

"Ladies, do you mind if I join you?" he asked as he paused at the empty seat that faced ours.

We mentioned our plans to see John Millington Synge's "The Playboy of the Western World" at the Abbey Theatre, the National Theatre of Ireland, during its centennial celebration. Our new friend imparted some scholarly information about the playwright, and when I pulled a copy of the script from my bag, he wowed us with a reading. As if we weren't already totally charmed, he left us with a line from a W.B. Yeats poem.

·Arriving in Dublin, we spotted a storefront sign: "Ronan's." Ronan is the name my father's family brought from Ireland.

We stopped there a couple of days later, and I asked, "Is anyone here named Ronan?"

"I," said a fellow behind the counter.

"That's my name," I told him.

He welcomed us, and we chatted. When I got out my wallet to pay for a few items, Billy Ronan refused my money.

"Oh, no," he said with smiling Irish eyes. "You're family."

Kate Coleman writes a monthly Lifestyle column and covers the Maryland Symphony Orchestra for The Herald-Mail.

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