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Irish brogue always recognizable, not always understood

Over 60

It’s a small country, hardly as large as our Peninsula, shaped like a Teddy Bear facing this way — rich with history, mysteries, folk tales, and a brogue you’d recognize anywhere.

It’s Ireland, of course, and March is the month dedicated world over to that amazing land of 43 shades of green and all the truths and myths born there. Somehow, around each March 17th, we’ve fall hypnotically under her spell.

It’s called Eire in Irish, also known as the Republic of Ireland. Gaelic Irish, by the way, is the country’s first language, slowly slipping back in, but the second official language is still English – though the brogue (shifting in subtle variations across the country) is ever recognizable if not always easily understood.

The claim is that the older a person is, the more enjoyable is a trip to the auld sod , supposedly beholden to the vibration of your mature senses.

Flying in (usually at sunrise) you look down and see all those green colors, divided at the Southeastern source by the river Shannon as it empties into the ocean from its downward flow, just a few hundred miles from the northernmost part of the country (which is still part of the United Kingdom and where peace is a tentative thing).

You land at Shannon Airport where you get your first taste of Irish hospitality, passing easily through security and on, with the city of Limerick awaiting you – and the rest of the country beyond – at your disposal: a geographical wonder of rolling hills, craggy cliffs, peat bogs, ancient ruins – and on to cities like Dublin on the East coast to little hamlets spread across its undulating land.

You are surprised to find palm trees growing in Dublin, warmed by Atlantic waters; and windows famous for their unique lace curtains; shops that seem to have been there forever; and pubs – as plentiful as the natives who all but live in them (where Guinness stout is served in grand style) with names of traditional pride: Sean O’Casey’s, Fitzgerald’s; and just south of the River Liffy (which divides the city in half), a pub dedicated to James Joyce, the door to his original living quarters enshrined inside.

Not too far from the city is still extant the cottage where John Wayne whirled Maureen O’Hara into a kiss in “The Quiet Man.” And all around, ancient ruins of Celtic formations hint at mysterious religious rites from centuries ago, and long abandoned castles of immense size and stature, some open to curious visitors. And Cork down South with its opening to the Atlantic, where one may kiss the Blarney Stone and boats once awaited thousands of hopefuls fleeing the potato famine to a western Promise Land.

Then there are the B&Bs, ranging from prim country homes to renovated castles – the most famous of all being Ballygally in County Atrim, considered by Irish believers to be the most haunted since 1625 – where Lady Isabel Shaw still wanders the halls, knocks on doors, and vanishes.

And city parks, surrounded by stately Georgian apartment buildings fronted by grand doorways with their traditional Georgian windows arching above them – bearing plaques of their former residents: Oscar Wilde, George Bernard Shaw, Lady Gregory, and more.

And are we to be reminded of present day ancestors who flanded in our country? The Kennedy families from way back, and more recently U2, Barry Fitzgerald, Richard Harris, Maureen O’Hara, George Clooney, Ben Affleck, Bruce Springsteen, some of the Beatles, and physicist Robert Boyle.

And we come to the sense of humor – the ubiquitous Irish quips and barbs:

•Sure, and, you’re as thick as manure, but only half as useful.

•I never forget an Irish face, but in your case I’ll make an exception.

•I hear that when you were born you were so ugly the nurse slapped your mother.

•May the cat eat you and the devil eat the cat.

•You have a face that would drive rats from a barn.

And Irish logic:

•Mahony was late for a meeting and desperate to find a parking space, so he looked up and prayed, “Please Lord, if you help me find a spot I’ll give up drinking and go to Mass again.” The clouds part and a ray of sunlight shines on an empty space. Cries Mahony, “Never mind, Lord, I’ve just found one.”

•Father Dolan answers the phone: Hello, Father, this is the Inland Revenue Service, income tax department. Could you help us? Colin O’Hara tells us he’s a member of your congregation. Did he donate $10,000 to the church?” Replied the priest, “He will.”

•The local District Judge gives the defendant a lecture on the evils of drink. But in view of the fact that this was the first time the man had been drunk and incapable, the case is dismissed on payment of 10 shillings costs. “Now don’t let me ever see our face again,” said the Justice sternly. “I’m afraid I can’t promise that, sir” said the released man. “And why not?” “Because I’m the barman at your regular pub.”

•Paddy was in New York, waiting patiently and watching the traffic cop on a busy crossing. The cop stops the flow of traffic and shouts, “Okay pedestrians.” He’d done that several times, and Paddy still stands on the sidewalk. After the cop has shouted “Pedestrians” for the fifth time, Paddy goes over to him and asks, “Is it not about time ye let the Catholics across?”

•An Irishman arrives at JFK airport, wandering about the terminal with tears streaming down his face. He is asked if he is already homesick. “No, he replied, “I’ve lost all me luggage.” “How’d that happen?” “Cork fell out.”

And, finally, the best recipe for Irish Stew: Get some meat, some potatoes and a lot of Guinness Stout. Drink all of the stout. Forget about the stew.

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