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This is an online diary of my latest trip to Ireland.
Dennis J. Ahern

Tuesday, March 8th

My roommate's name, it turns out is Tony. He was off to breakfast when I was packing up to leave for Cork so I left him a little present. When I fly, I do not fly first-class, although the first time I came over on Aer Lingus as a teenager it seemed like it. The meal back then was filet mignon in steerage. I don't know what they got up in the front of the plane then or now, but like all airlines it is somewhat less posh. One of the perq's of 1st class nowadays are little toiletries kits but very few of the upper class passengers seem to make use of them. Not one to see anything go to waste, I make it my custom to grab an unused one from amongst the front seats on the way to the door. The one I got from my last trip was a green, zippered case that I still use. It came with a little blindfold you could put on at night, along with toothbrush, and other odds and ends. The current one is a velcro fold-up case, not as fancy and no blindfold, but it did have a pair of comfy socks. Not being in need of any of the contents, I left it for my new friend as a parting gift.

I packed what I needed for an overnight in Cork into two small shoulder bags and left my pack and the Search for Missing Friends books at the hostel's left-luggage room. I got back so late last night that I didn't feel like doing laundry. Hmmmn, maybe I should have kept those socks from the 1st class ditty bag. Oh well. I can put it off another day.

All this repacking and distribution put me a little late for getting to the GRO by 9:30 if I was to hand in my five and still catch the ten o'clock from the Bus Arras across the river. As luck would have it a number 10 bus came along before I had gone as far as Parnell Sq. It was worth the 90 cents to hop on and ride as far as Nassau street, even though it looks like people alongside are making better progress on foot. I made it to the GRO by 9:30 and was out of there by 9:40 and made the bus to Cork with ten minutes or more to spare.

There had been a young foreign lad in line at the bus terminal and I saw him afterwards talking to the bus drivers standing around waiting to start. He was holding a schedule or something and point at the gate numbers which were in disarray because of the construction. He appeared to have missed his bus, by his body language, and was having some difficulty in sorting out what to do. I was reminded of when my wife and I landed in Amsterdam in '78 and couldn't understand anybody at the train station where we wanted to go to Hook van Holland to catch the ferry to England. I was reminded of something and uncle of mine said when the Andrea Doria sank and that he would never travel on a "foreign" boat like that 'cause if anything happened you would be lost for sure. Not that I can always understand the Dublin accent, even when they are speaking English.

Tuesday, March 8th, continued

Crossing the Liffey on my way from the GRO to the Bus Arras (House) Tuesday morning, I reflected on how both London and Dublin are divided down the middle by rivers that are tidal and present different aspects depending on the time of day. As with London, I believe Dublin also has some sort of flood control system near the river mouth to dampen big surges from major storms.

Tony at the hostel had been telling me about coming over to visit his sister's holiday home in Tipperary. Talking about the bus to Cork (via Cahir) I mentioned looking forward to the halfway rest stop (2 hours into a 4-hour ride) and how I had taken that bus so many times I even knew what sort of sandwich I would buy for my lunch, an egg mayonnaise (egg salad to you Yanks) and a packet of crisps (potato chips). he allowed as how that stopping place was in Urlingford, where his sister's place is and I aid "But I thought your sister's place was in county Tipperary". Well, he said, "The border is only a hundred yards from the truck stop." It turns out that the border was more like 500 yards by my eye, but I only mention this because here I am giving geography lessons to an Irishman. I think it's because, having indexed over 50,000 Irish obituaries, I've had to look up a lot of place names in Ireland to figure out which county they were in. It's fun now to see places I've typed in so often.

There was a middle-aged couple got off in Cashel. After they had left, I noticed they left one of those green SuperQuin shopping bags in the seat back, one of those shopping bags that is reusable and avoids having to pay fifteen cents for a plastic grocery bag, which explains such detritus is not frequently seen blowing about the landscape as back home. I had in mind they must have discarded their lunch trash in it and I decided I would take it and empty it when I got to Cork and then use it to carry stuff from the store. But it was not trash they left. Inside were some sandwiches, a gift pen in a presentation box, two envelopes of family photos, some from Christmas with someone's da in a paper crown, and several other personal items. There was also another bag on the seat that turned out to be men's dress shirts, but I didn't think they'd fit me so next time the bus stopped I got up an informed the driver. He thanked me very much and collected them for the lost and found. If Mr. P. Finnegan of Portlaise should see this, then he should call Bus Eireann in Cork to collect his things.

I neglected to mention that the first thing I did when I got off the bus in Cork was to go over to Anderson's Quay nearby and hail the Jeanie Johnston, which was tied up there in front of the Asgard II. The sign said "Sorry the Jeanie Johnston is not open to the public at this time" but I hailed one of the crew on deck and strode down the gangplank to introduce myself as a former sail trainee aboard the Jeanie when she came to America. He called another fellow from below who was on it when I was and I enquired after Tom Harding, the Bosun. It turns out Tom is shipping out on the Asgard and would be back that evening. I gave them a copy of the Boston Irish Reporter from September 2003 with my article and photos about our trip and told them to tell Tom I would be back in the morning.

The Jeanie Johnston at Anderson's Quay, Cork

I rang up Olive Coleman from the Cork Genealogical Society and she told me to wait at the bus station and she would collect me and bring me out to her home for dinner. I neglected to ascertain exactly where I should stand at the bus station and as luck would have it I opted for the opposite end of the block from where people are generally collected, but that was local knowledge I did not have. After it was long past "Irish Time" I decided to check out the other end of the building and as I came around the corner I saw a diminutive woman in a red jumper looking around and then going in the station door to the information booth. As I came up behind her I could hear her giving my name to the attendant and I stepped forward and introduced myself.

Supper, or tea actually as it would be called in Ireland, supper being a fourth meal of the day which may or may not follow later in the evening, was chicken korma using a prepared sauce in a jar which made it very easy to make along with some roast potatoes and carrots. In between preparations Olive managed to make a separate meal of rice and cheese for her three children, sign their homework books, and encourage her oldest to clear his electrical fix-it tools from off the kitchen table. Her husband was expected to be late home from work so we ate our tea and made ready to go to the meeting. Before we left Olive gave me a copy of their society's journal for last year and I found some Aherns mentioned in newspaper articles that Jean Prendergast had transcribed. This was the last year for their printed journal as the new one, which I was also given, is on CDROM as it is much cheaper to produce.

There was a good crowd at the meeting, about 26 or 27 which is somewhat more than their usual crowd. Olive told me later they even had two new members join. Tim Cadogan from the Cork County Library and Tony McCarthy from Irish Roots magazine were also in the audience. My talk was on Researching Genealogy in Irish Newspapers and I would say it was well-received. Afterwards, Olive delivered me to her parents, the Scanlans' home in Douglas where I would be put up for the night. I had my first pint of the black, Murphy's no less, in the parlor and we had a lovely chat in front of the gas fire. A picture on the opposite wall drew my attention and Olive's father said it was the Jeanie Johnston sailing in past Blackrock Castle. Mrs. Scanlan had liked the picture very much so they had bought a nicely framed copy. There was something not quite right about the photo, but it wasn't until closer inspection that I discovered it was not the Jeanie at all, but a ship of the same type, square-rigged with three masts, called the Endeavour. The hull shape was different though and it lacked the Jeanie's buxom figurehead.

Addendum

On the bus ride down, after we had gotten back on the bus from the lunch stop, but before the bus had pulled out, I was eating my sandwich and container of milk when a little child, a pretty, well-dressed black girl, just able to get around by holding onto the armrests, came alongside my seat and was watching me eat. I felt a bit awkward. Maybe it was the billboards alongside the highway coming down advertising the current Lenten fund drive of Trocaire, the Irish charity. It was in support of some sort of effort in Africa and I was reminded of how much more I consume in calories than I need for the amount of exertion involved in my customary daily activity. Thus I have developed a shelf of sorts where my waist used to be. They could probably feed an African family on the crumbs I collect on this protuberance in a year.

Addendum No. 2

They have a radio playing on the bus, and at noon there was the Angelus Bell going on and on and on. I thought they dropped that from Irish Radio some years ago.
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