The last day of any trip is always kind of a bummer, isn’t it? Even with a whole week of vacation left (I have never had a vacation this long in my life!), I stayed in bed just a little longer this morning, hoping it would delay the start of the last full day in Ireland. It seemed fitting that today would be a rainy day, and I was kind of expecting it to be a bit of a washout as far as sightseeing, too. As usual, I was wrong.
Yesterday, Dan had the crazy idea of going to the Mass at St. Michael’s in Glenfarne, where his old friends, the McManus family, attend church. I looked it up online at the hotel, and we arranged to be at the 11:30 Mass. Before we went, Dan drove us on a short tour around Manorhamilton and Glenfarne, showing me where our friends Patrick and Joanne’s house is located (they’re out of the country presently). He even took me up a long, steep mountain road to a quarry, where the view was spectacular – even in the rain, and the sheep on the hillside were not too excited to see us.
When we got to church, there was only one car in the lot, and even though I’m not a very good Catholic, I knew something was wrong if the lot was empty fifteen minutes before Mass. The woman in the solitary car told us the Mass times had been changed, and Mass had been held at 9:30, but we were welcome to go inside out of the rain, if we liked. Evidently, she did not know what bad Catholics we are! The church was simple, lovely, and unlocked – something we don’t find at churches at home in the USA anymore. It was nice for Dan and I to spend a few minutes lighting candles in memory of relatives who have shaped our lives profoundly and who had a strong connection to Ireland.
Next door to the church lives Theresa Stephenson, whose husband Ed passed on a few years ago. Her whole family was there when we stopped to visit for a few minutes, and though I wasn’t sure she remembered Dan all that well, she was more than cordial and welcoming. We didn’t stay long, and then we were on the way to see Francis and Theresa McManus. Theresa welcomed us with open arms, insisted we have a cup of tea, and caught us up on her family’s comings and goings since Dan last saw them 20 years ago. Frances must have been awakened from his nap by our commotion, and he stopped in to chat too, and before you knew it, their son, Micah, and his son, JJ, sheep farmers, were sitting with us, sharing tea and talking about everything from sheep to gun control. (For the record, it seems everyone in Ireland thinks we American citizens really have a thing about guns, and they think we should just be kinder to one another and trust our officers more – maybe then our officers wouldn’t have to wear body armor or carry guns or be afraid to ask someone to produce a driver’s license. They think we’re all wild-west thugs who feel compelled to use guns instead of tongues to clarify and diffuse situations.)
I was also able to ask Micah a hundred questions on sheep-raising, and he patiently answered each one and genuinely seemed enjoyed to be asked and share the life time’s knowledge he has. As we were leaving, I apologized for having not called ahead to be sure we wouldn’t be an imposition and Theresa hugged me and said, “If we had found out Danny had been in Ireland and hadn’t stopped, we would have thought surely he’d become uppity, so I’m glad you stopped by.”
When we left, we headed for Sean McDermott’s house outside of Glenfarne. Sean McDermott, also known as Sean MacDiarmada was a pretty hot-looking Irish dude born near Kiltyclogher in County Leitrim in 1883. He was a revolutionary with a brain who helped organize the Irish Republican Brotherhood and the Easter Rising of 1916, and he was executed for proclaiming Ireland’s independence from the United Kingdom. His boyhood home was closed up tight, be we ran into a guy out jogging the back roads in the rain who shared some information, directions, and ideas on places where we could gather more information. From there, we headed to Manorhamilton, stopping first at the grave of Prince Connall, which dates back to two centuries Before Christ B.C. Because of the teeming rain, I couldn’t get close enough, so m photo might be a lttle rain-spotted and distant, but you get the idea – it’s very old and historic grave.
Then it was on to Manorhamilton for a tour of the Castle at Manorhamilton (also closed) from the outside. It’s huge, and you’d think I’d be getting sick of seeing all these abandoned castles, but I’m not. Judging from his reaction, neither is Dan, and I know we’ve both been learning a lot. Diagonal to the castle is one of the oldest Protestant churches anywhere in Europe, so we toured the ruis of that, and I enjoyed reading some of the epitaphs.
Finally, we stopped for lunch around 4 p.m. at a placed called the Tuck In, where we had fish and chips, and it was terrific. It warmed us up enough to stop by the Glenfarn Waterfall, a steep and powerful waterfall that is hidden away on the side of the mountain. But we found it, and we enjoyed it thoroughly. Now I’m falling asleep as I write, thinking that I have a ton of packing to do before we leave for Denmark tomorrow, and grateful that the McManus family didn’t think for a New York minute that Dan and I were ‘uppity.’ On the way home, Dan said he thought it was pretty nice to be able to leave home where we have friends, travel halfway around the world and still have friends to visit. There was something about spending a quiet Sunday visiting around that made today feel like I was not meeting new friends for the first time but rather enjoying the company of old ones I just found out I met. If I do come back to Ireland again (and I sure hope I do), I feel like I must stop and check on the McManuses again because now we have a connection and it would only be good manners to check on things in the Manor – Manorhamilton, that is.
Tomorrow morning we leave for Dublin. Wish us luck and super-easy directions, and please don’t ever mistake my reticence to dive into a crowded room full of people I don’t know as being “uppity.” It’s more like I’m just petrified, but I’m trying to get over that, and I love how much the people in Ireland are willing to help. I will miss this country, its breathtaking landscape and scenery, and its people who are so kind and friendly. But it’s time to take this bucket list item to someplace new for another new and exciting , and I can’t wait to hug little Zara and Anja when we arrive. Until tomorrow, slainte!