We boarded the coach and headed out for the Ring of Kerry. The fickle Irish weather did not disappoint as one could see sunshine on the faraway hills while a brisk wind blew rain clouds overhead from the ocean. I immediately was in the doghouse for not bringing Áine's winter coat as it turned out that the damp weather was going to be the rule of the day. Still the clouds managed to cleave open spaces in the sky that poured forth sunlight every so often, creating a mesmerizing view. We travelled past the Gap of Dunloe and continued on to the Ladies' View of the Lakes of Killarney. I have been here several times now, and it never fails to move me with its rugged beauty. "The Ladies" is a reference to the Ladies in Waiting to Queen Victoria who was invited by the Irish-Anglo landlord and Parliamentarian, Lord Fitzherbert. He rolled out the red carpet for Her Majesty by rolling out a carpet of greenbacks, or at least pound notes. The work, money spent, and anticipation culminated in Victoria heading out for two nights and cutting her trip short because her husband Prince Albert fell ill. Now, many of the Baby Boomers and those older remember Prince Albert from the famed tobacco, the joke always being a prank call to the drugstore:
"Do you have Prince Albert in a can?"
"Yes we do."
"Why don't you let him out?
Needless to say, Victoria's visit bankrupted Lord Fitz, and so, like so many estates during that time, the next owners were rich Americans. Like a scene out of Downton Abbey, a daughter of a wealthy oil and mineral tycoon from California was given the place for her wedding to her Irish sweetheart. She moved in, along with her husband and 22 servants.
Our group toured the Muckross House. There in the front entrance were beautiful antlers from the long extinct Irish Elk, its rack found in a bog being cut for turf and brought to his Lordship. Áine was fairly mpressed with the place, and I was impressed how the docent was able to keep Áine interested. Having a 20 month old touring a Victorian mansion is a pretty amazing thing. However, the docent slipped up when she mentioned that the children had to have a governess. As if on cue, Áine started crying. "You had to say the G word," I joked. After that, we skipped Victoria's bedroom and headed out there. Whatever was in there will remain to me Victoria's secret. (Sorry, could not help myself!)
We went over to the school house that was a replica of the schools built in Ireland back in the early 1900's. A stern schoolmaster drilled our "students" in the use of the Irish language and threatened to use the rod on any miscreant. He held up a thick ash stick. "See that?" he said. Then he held up this thin reed. "This looked like that last week."
After the Irish lesson, the group was treated to a great Irish dinner of Irish stew, brown bread, beer, wine, and apple cobbler with real cream. During our meal an Irish band named Tim, Tom and Mike played with button accordion, flute, and guitar . They brought up two young dancers who did some jigs and reels and then made me dance the broom dance. A lot of banter and songs followed, and even some goats wandered in during the show and slowly meandered through the crowd, much to the amusement of our group.
We got up to play and Áine joined us on stage for a number, dancing and then waving her fist in he air. That got everyone roaring. After our set, Tim, Tom, and Mike again took to the stage and we all danced in the schoolroom. It was a fantastic, energetic evening, and we wondered how we were going to top it. Áine fell asleep on Annie's shoulder and we all headed home on the coach feeling very happy and amazed that we were only minutes from the hotel.
~ Marty McCormack
Click here to read Day 0 and Day 1
Click here to read Day 3