From The Archives -- It's A Long, Long Way To Tipperary

[ Posted Friday, March 17th, 2023 – 18:04 UTC ]

[Program Note: Well, I forgot to anticipate it last week, but this year St. Patrick's Day falls on a Friday. Which means our usual Friday Talking Points column is going to be pre-empted due to meself having to talk to a man about a horse, down at the pub (so to speak). So instead of looking back over the week that was, I'm going back eight years to my travelogue of a vacation I took with my authentically-Irish wife back to the Emerald Isle. The following ran as the first part of this review, so for those who are interested (who may not have read it previously), you can check out Part 2 and Part 3 of the trip as well (both of which cover Northern Ireland). I guess I picked this one to run this year because it has a "Biden gaffe" in it... ah, memories! In any case, never fear, Friday Talking Points will return next week, and for the time being I heartily encourage everyone to go out and have some fun (and kiss someone Irish, just because) to celebrate Paddy's Day. And to all, whether lucky enough to be Irish or not, a heartfelt Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig!]


Originally published March 23, 2015

Greetings from Ireland!

Sure and it's a long, long way to Tipperary, as they say. How long? I really have no idea, since it's not on our itinerary this trip. Finding the answer might be something worthwhile to do on my next trip, I suppose.

Wry attempts at humor aside, here's a quick rundown of our trip so far. Oh, and before I begin: this, it should be obvious, is not going to be the usual sort of column here at, since it's not going to have anything to do with American politics at all. Well, OK, there is one Biden gaffe to mention, but aside from that.... Anyway, you have all been warned -- skip this article altogether, if travelogues aren't your cup of tea.

My wife being Irish, we occasionally visit the Emerald Isle to see family and whatnot. I should mention that my wife is now a dual American and Irish citizen, but isn't "Irish-American" in the way that phrase is normally used in places like Boston and New York City. Her ancestors didn't move over from the Ould Country, she did. She was born and raised in Dublin (Southside, for those that know what that means), and thus doesn't have a "looking up the family tree" set of relatives here, but rather her immediate family from her childhood.

We've been to visit Ireland before, both in summertime and for Christmas (and, strangely enough, for Thanksgiving... Americans don't realize it much, but outside our own country, Canada is the only other country to celebrate Thanksgiving -- and they can't even manage to get the date for it right). Ahem, where was I? Boy, all this writing raises a powerful thirst. I believe I'll repair to the kitchen for a wee moment to refresh my glass of Sir Arthur's fine product (yes, Guinness Draught is available here in cans, too).

Ahhh... that's better.

So anyway, this year we decided it'd be fun to do something different, by arriving to see Saint Patrick's Day in Dublin. This quintessential Irish holiday is a very big deal here, as it is not just an excuse to put on a silly hat and drink a lot, it is in fact their biggest national holiday. It's akin to July Fourth for Americans, to put it another way. Most everyone gets the day off work, for instance. However, there is no green beer. Ask any Irishman, and he would be shocked at the very concept: "Why would you go turnin' perfectly good beer green then, Yank?" Heh. Sorry if it's disappointing to the American audience; but just as there are no fortune cookies in China, there is no green beer here -- it's a purely American creation. Also, a further important note for Americans visiting on Paddy's Day: the concept of pinching people because they're not wearing green is unheard of here. You have been duly warned, and when that bird at the pub slaps your face as a direct result of not understanding this, it won't be my fault.

We didn't get up early to see the parade, because the Irish are more sensible about such things and don't schedule them for the crack of dawn, but rather at a civilized hour such as noon. So we had plenty of time to get ready and walk down to the parade route. The rain, mercifully, ended right before we left the house so the experience of watching the parade was a bit cold (at least for a Californian like meself) but dry. The parade itself wasn't all that big a deal until very recently (the last decade or two), as it was also largely an American invention (there aren't too many high school marching bands in Europe, to put this another way). But after years of American tourists coming over from Boston and Chicago and New York City -- who were all massively disappointed to find out that their hometown's Paddy's Day parade was actually bigger than Dublin's -- the Irish finally relented and decided to put on their own big Paddy's Day show. After all, there's a pot o' gold to be had when those Yank tourists open their wallets and purses!

What I personally found surprising is that the Irish have also now largely embraced silly Paddy's Day costumes and hats and all the other ridiculous green geegaws. Again, this is a fairly recent thing from what I hear from the natives, but while Americans all know the silly hats I'm talking about (see: "frat party" and "St. Patrick's Day," for examples), I thought the Irish would be a bit disdainful of such things. I was wrong. Here is what I was given to wear to the parade, in case you haven't seen this photo yet. [And my apologies that this is the only photo in this article, I'm having technical difficulties and may post other photos when I get back home.]

The parade grounds were packed, as throngs of people lined the entire route. Whoever did the tech for the parade is to be commended, because there were also big video screens for everyone who couldn't see directly, and they had tied them directly into one of the traffic cameras in the immediate vicinity, so you got an image of whatever was passing right in front of you (instead of blocks away from where you were) -- a very simple thing, yet whoever came up with the idea deserves a raise (or, as they say here "a rise in pay"). The parade itself was great, very Irish in nature, but also with a few lucky American marching bands who got invited to join in to add the proper parade flavor for us Yank tourists. Americans weren't the only ones here to join in on the fun, as I heard at least six or seven other languages being spoken in the streets, some of which I couldn't even identify. On this one special day, everyone is Irish!

The rest of the day was a blur, but a good time was definitely had by all. That much, at least, I remember. Well, for all except possibly Joe Biden. While the story didn't garner a lot of attention in America, Biden was hosting a breakfast in America (not to get all Supertrampy here or anything) for the Irish Taoiseach (prime minister) and his wife. Biden decided to lighten things up with a joke: "If you're wearing orange, you're not welcome in here." The whole green / orange thing is so fraught with historical bad blood that it'd be impossible to adequately explain here, but suffice it to say that many people in Northern Ireland were not amused. And to point out to everyone complaining about the "unprecedented polarization" in American politics -- these people are still sore over something that happened in 1690.

Moving along from Biden gaffes and Paddy's Day, later in the week (unbeknownst to us) they had scheduled a solar eclipse for our entertainment. We only got about 90 percent coverage (you had to go to obscure northern islands to see a total eclipse), but it was pretty impressive. It was cloudy in Dublin, but at the best part (about 9:30 in the morning), the clouds thinned just enough to see the tiny crescent the sun had become. But hey, that was better than in the Faroe Islands, where 10,000 people paid a lot of money to see totality and were entirely clouded in!

Saturday was an enormous sports day in Ireland, as it was the final day of the Six Nations rugby championship. For those not in the know, rugby is sort of a proto-football (or "American football" as you must say here, to differentiate it from soccer). It's kind of (but not really) football without the forward pass, and without the concept of "downs." The Six Nations championship, I have to say, is (at least when you have a knowledgeable relative sitting next to you to explain stuff) equally as exciting as watching a close Super Bowl. This is a round of games between (obviously) six nations: Ireland, Scotland, Wales, England, France, and Italy. Each country plays each other once in the tournament, which leads to a complicated way to figure the overall victor by adding up the point spreads of all the games. Since there were three games on the final day, nobody knew who was going to win the trophy. Wales started off the day by demolishing the Italians, meaning the Irish had to beat Scotland by 21 points or more -- a three-touchdown (or "try") lead, in other words. They went on to accomplish this in spectacular style, but England still had a chance if they could beat France by a wide enough margin. This last game went down to the final seconds (both the Irish and the English games were extremely exciting, I have to say), but France scored enough to deny England the point spread they needed, and Ireland emerged victorious. The Irish won the championship for the second year in a row -- something which hasn't happened in over a half a century. The next day, the women's rugby team also won their own Six Nations cup, meaning it was a total Irish sweep.

OK, it's getting pretty late so I'll wrap things up for now and perhaps do another of these later in the week (warning: I may not have enough time tomorrow to even post a re-run column). We'll be heading to London for a few days (to see other relatives) before we return home, and England is experiencing a rather bizarre national milestone of their own this week. King Richard III is getting buried. Or "reburied," after his bones were found under a parking lot a few years back (you just can't make this stuff up, folks). This weekend, the coffin's procession went to Bosworth Field, where he became the last British king to die in battle. Shakespeare famously wrote this scene with the line: "A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse!" but Shakespeare was quite likely doing nothing more than writing political propaganda to make the victors look a lot better (Richard III was the last Plantagenet ruler, and his death ended the Wars of the Roses). In fact, Richard III was painted as a monster who killed two small boys to grab the throne, but after reading Josephine Tey's The Daughter Of Time, I was convinced by her argument that Shakespeare's version is hogwash and nothing short of blatant historical revisionism, and that Richard III was actually a pretty decent king (and that his rival was the one who had the two boys killed). Anyway, he traveled back to the scene of his death this weekend (the ceremony was complete with full-dress knights in shining armor), and his reburial is set for this Thursday. It's not every day you get to see a royal funeral in Britain (indeed, there hasn't been one in my lifetime, as far as I know), and this one is especially unique considering this king died 530 years ago.

Back to Ireland, though. Today, we visited St. Michan's Church here in Dublin, where we saw historical remains of a different nature: mummies. Yep, actual mummies. In the crypt of this church (the oldest on the north side of the River Liffey, originally built in 1095), atmospheric conditions are unique due to the limestone used to construct it, the constant cool underground temperature, and the seepage of methane (the tour guide, I should note -- already knowing my wife was "former Irish / current Californian" -- asked her pointedly if she still pronounced the word "mee-thane" rather than the American "meth-ane"... I informed him she now also says "aluminum" rather than "aluminium" as well... but I digress...) through the soil. The conditions were just right to mummify some of the people buried there, and they've been on display for hundreds of years (for a modest entry fee). There are two women, one most likely a nun; and two males, one purported to be a Crusader (but who likely isn't quite as old as the myths claim -- the church's own site states "in fact he is only 650 years dead"). In any case, at the end of the tour you get a chance to personally touch a mummy's finger ("Shake the hand of the Crusader, for luck!"), which of course I had to do. If you're wondering, it felt like parchment.

For music lovers, St. Michan's Church is also likely the first place the notes of "The Messiah" were ever heard, on their pipe organ. George Frideric Handel is reputed to have practiced it here while writing it, before the first public performance (which happened elsewhere in Dublin, in 1742).

Afterwards, we repaired to the historic Jameson's distillery and again, events became rather hazy, for some reason. Tomorrow, we're off to see Belfast, the Titanic Museum, and the Giant's Causeway. Hey, now that I wrote about Ireland here, can I write this trip off as a business expense? Heh. Sorry, it must be time for another Guinness.

By way of wrapping this up, anyone wishing to have a great Irish experience should consider traveling here next year, since it will be the centennial of the "1916 Easter Uprising" that eventually led to independence from Britain, and will likely be a grand old time.

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


25 Comments on “From The Archives -- It's A Long, Long Way To Tipperary”

  1. [1] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    Here's a song for you, by and about an American in Ireland:

    Sad, sad, sad, sad

  2. [2] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Alrighty, then ... I guess it will be a music Sunday as there doesn't seem to be any other sort of activity around here. Which seems to be somewhat of a pattern of late...

    I suggest some music from Ireland and, of course, I'll concentrate on the rock end of things for my part and, perhaps, throw in some tunes of the Canadian progressive nature. :)

  3. [3] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    irish? that's so two days ago.

    how about... not irish

  4. [4] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Heh. How about you do the not Irish and I'll do the Irish. Btw, do you think that performance was pitch corrected?

    I'm gonna play another Fil from Wings of Pegasus analysis video tonight that has nothing to do with Ireland and all about why the music of today is so bland as compared to earlier eras.

    Hope you can stay up a little later tonight!

  5. [5] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    pitch correction at a live event? i don't think they had the budget.

  6. [6] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    It looks like a live event. Are you sure it was?

  7. [7] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Anyway, welcome everyone to another CW Sunday Night Music Festival and Dance Party where we leave all manner of politics behind and just bask in the glory of the music for a few hours.

    Here's a fun tune from a fine Irish band to start things off...

    Thin Lizzy - The Boys Are Back In Town (Live)

  8. [8] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:
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    Elizabeth Miller wrote:
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    Elizabeth Miller wrote:
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    Elizabeth Miller wrote:
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    Elizabeth Miller wrote:
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    Elizabeth Miller wrote:
  14. [14] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    "Horslips are an Irish Celtic rock band that compose, arrange and perform songs frequently inspired by traditional Irish airs, jigs and reels. The group are regarded as 'founding fathers of Celtic rock' for their fusion of traditional Irish music with rock music and went on to inspire many local and international acts. They formed in 1970 and 'retired' in 1980 for an extended period. The name originated from a spoonerism on The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse which became "The Four Poxmen of The Horslypse"...Wikipedia

    Horslips - Dearg Doom

  15. [15] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:
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    Elizabeth Miller wrote:
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    Elizabeth Miller wrote:
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    Elizabeth Miller wrote:
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    Elizabeth Miller wrote:
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    Elizabeth Miller wrote:
  21. [21] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    During the Pandemic lockdowns I bought a ticket to a virtual concert by Classic Albums Live, performing live at the Empire Theatre in Bellville, Ontario. It was my first CAL concert but certainly not my last.

    Classic Albums Live is a group of very talented musicians based out of Toronto who tour all over North America and beyond. They perform classic albums - note for note, cut for cut - as these albums were meant to be listened to.

    I watched the concert streamed live on my big screen tv and it was amazing! The album performed that night was U2 - The Joshua Tree

    If you ever have the chance to see a CAL performance, don't miss it!

  22. [22] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    For Caddy, a little Canadian progressive rock from a band called FM - more about these guys another night but, for now, enjoy one of FM's full albums:

    FM - Black Noise (full album)

  23. [23] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Fil from Wings of Pegasus Analysis Video - the Hollies, He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother

    Fil explains why this kind of honest and expressive vocal performance would never pass muster in today's music biz where pitch correction software is so pervasively used throughout the industry. It is such a depressing state of affairs.

    Okay, Joshua, it's all yours ...

  24. [24] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    sorry liz, i was elsewhere. so, apparently, was everyone else...

  25. [25] 
    nypoet22 wrote:
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