My son, Kevin, and I just got back Sunday from a one week tour of Ireland. A nephew, Brian FitzGerald, is a member of a music duo, Switchback, who perform American and Irish folk music (Marty McCormack is the vocalist and nephew Brian plays guitar and mandolin). For several years now they have arranged yearly tours of Ireland and Scotland where they perform. There were about 60 people on the tour, many were folks who take the tour every year. The trip went well. Our tour guide and driver, Mickey Nolan, was great. He was fun and very informative. He discussed the geography and demographics. Ireland is actually not large; about the size of Indiana. The population is about 5 million (of which around 4.5 million drink Guinness). He explained how Ireland's agriculture was mainly raising livestock. There are more cows, horses, and lambs in Ireland than people.
We toured a woolen mill, flew hawks at Ashford Castle, took a cruise on Loch Corrib, spent an evening in Galway shopping, eating the best fish and chips in the world and washing it all down with pints of Guinness (which, by the way, despite its dark color is not at all heavy or bitter. The inch of creamy foam that crowns the pint never diminishes or disappears like on our beers. It stays till the last drop). In Ennis we saw the Cliffs of Moher and toured the Allwee caves.
Mickey told us a lot about fairies who live in an underworld and a little about leprechauns. He said that much about leprechauns was dreamed up by Hollywood. They don't have a pot of gold. The fable is that the leprechauns at some point in time were banished from the above world and banished without female companions. It is further said that the leprechauns keep their race going by stealing pre-teen boys from their homes and training them to be leprechauns.
He said the Irish don't really believe in fairies but don't do things to disturb them "just in case". It's like not believing it's bad luck to walk under a ladder but still not doing it. There are trees growing in the middle of pastures that were planted by windblown or bird pooped out seeds. They would never ever cut down such a tree or harm it. These are called ""fairy trees" and you best not mess with them or trouble will befall you. There are also thousands of circular mounds across Ireland created by dead tree debris and other vegetation. These are thought to be "fairy forts" leading to the underworld and again leave them alone.
It was fun but it's good to be home. My son Kevin was very helpful to me on the trip. I could not have handled it without his help.
Attached are two links to videos of Switchback songs https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dAVNthnPieU&list=UUN_Gesxj-co-dUwRELuVlrw&index=19 and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rxl6vOABpdA (skip ad at beginning). Other songs can be heard on You Tube and at Waygood Music web site.
P.S. The tour sponsored a limericks contest. of 17 contestants, I had the fortune of winning first prize. I'd like to share the limerick with you. It's called Mandolin Man:
The mandolin man had me cryin'
His fingers were fairly flyin'
His song made me sad
But then I was glad
When I saw it was my nephew Brian