Seeing as I am half-Irish, I put a certain amount of faith in what is often called "the luck of the Irish." That doesn't quite capture the essence—it might better be described as "serendipitous coincidence." Or to put it much more simply, in Ireland, things just happen.
For example, the first time my husband, daughter and I traveled to the small village (when I say small, I mean about 200 people) in County Cork near where my grandfather was born, we had no reservations and only the sketchiest of plans. We intended to stay only one night, and when we arrived it was pouring rain and getting dark. One hotel, with eight rooms—all filled, because it was fishing season. The proprietor kindly recommended…not exactly a bed and breakfast, but a home that had two rooms that the owners rented out. They relied solely on word of mouth to fill those rooms, and didn't seem much worried if they didn't.
They had a room for us. No sooner had we set down our bags and explained why we were there than the landlady said, you must talk to my mother-in-law, who had just stopped by. Turns out she knew my family from years ago, particularly one great-uncle, who had lived in the family house until the 1950s. Memories are long in Ireland. But that wasn't all: the landlady said, oh, I have a cousin who you should meet. Who of course turned out to be my second cousin, who had been born in that family house, and who arrived the next day bearing a four-generation family tree. See what I mean? Serendipity.
The trip I made last year, supposedly for research purposes, didn't turn out quite as I had intended, thanks to missing a step in a church, but it was enjoyable anyway. Despite a trip to Cork University Hospital, I was still pursued by that strange luck. We had rented a cottage through an internet agency, based largely on the fact that it was about a mile from where my grandfather had been born. It turned out to be a delightful house (if you're ever looking for a peaceful vacation in a beautiful part of Ireland, this is your place—sleeps eight and comes with all mod cons, including a Jacuzzi and a wet bar).
You see, the hawthorn occupies a particular place in Irish folklore. It's known as the "fairy tree." Even in modern Ireland, some farmers plow a wide circle around a lone hawthorn tree, so as not to offend the fairies that inhabit the tree (heaven help you if you should cut one down!). It was said that placing a sprig of hawthorn in your milking parlor would make the cows produce more and creamier milk. It's also said to be found near holy wells and ringforts. It's a herald of spring; its scented flowers attract bees, and its berries sustain birds.
My grandfather was born over the hill, in a townland named Knockskagh. Which translates as Hawthorn Hill.
And that's what I love about Ireland. The fairies are calling me.
|Coming February 2013|