The hotel room is huge; in fact it’s really a suite. Had a really nice dinner and breakfast there and went for a walk through Waterford’s centre in the morning. The longer I’m in Ireland, the more I like it. Many locals, particularly older folks, say ‘good morning’ to you as they pass, and always in English. The Irish seem very relaxed and have a confident air about them without being smug. They seem very open to others. I notice they use Euros, not local currency, and think of themselves as being a part of a larger Europe, as well as having lots of links with the USA and other countries. Not a trace of a class system. They’re as egalitarian as can be.
Waterford Town Square
The morning breakfast TV show is laid back, unlike it’s much more stuffy UK equivalent. One news item makes me chuckle. Apparently three men in Cork entered a house and attempted to extort money from a local businessman. They were thwarted when the latter called the Garda (Police) when one of the invaders that was supposed to be watching him fell asleep while the others were searching for booty.
A Waterford Street
At about 1000, I walked up to the Waterford Treasures Museum. It’s set in an old four storey building; you start at the top and work down. Waterford has a very long and interesting history starting with Paleolithic settlement about 10,000 years ago. Displays were usually of genuine items accompanied by audio information. Some were interactive for children. Worked through the ancient period to the Celts, the Vikings, the Normans, to Waterford’s often quite close interaction with English history, up to the Irish Rebellion and the creation of modern Ireland. While one or two of the audio-visual displays were a little hokey, I couldn’t help being quite impressed by the scope and substance of it all. At the museum shop, where I managed to trigger their alarm by still having the audio machine attached to me as I exited the museum area, and at Kelly’s shop next door, I obtained some shamrock brooches for my sister Judy.
Drove out of Waterford to Carrick-on-Suir, Clonmel, Cahir and on to Tipperary (or ‘Tip’ as the locals refer to it). The town is larger than I expected, with large hills set behind it. I found the Family Heritage Office and asked for help in finding places linked to my forebears, namely the townland of Grallagh and Grange-Barry. A very helpful lady with the surname of some of my more distant relatives advised me there were more than one of each. However, on checking on the name and birth date of the baby of my ancestor, who was transported to NSW not long after the child was was born in 1831, she found that there was a match and no-one else existed with those details for at least 10 years either side. It had to be him. What’s more, he was born in the Catholic parish of Killanue-Moyglass in the townland of Grallagh, and that there’s also a Grange-Barry nearby!
The Rock of Cashel – (public domain, via wikipedia)
She explained that townlands are usually quite difficult to locate. They’re just parcels of land, usually about 250 hectares, marked on a map but not easy to discern in the flesh without an accurate map and a bit of searching. But again, I’m in luck, for Grallagh has a castle at one end and the village of Ballinure at the other. Grangebarry is a little further away and both are on the far side of the famous Rock of Cashel from the town of Tipperary.
Without much trouble I find Ballinure and the castle within an hour. I’m feeling quite stoked with myself! Unable to locate a fairground in the Grangebarry area though, where the affray took place that resulted in my ancestor being sent to Australia. It’s a very spooky feeling visiting the places and seeing the things that he and his family would have seen in their daily lives. And the place has probably not changed that much, although I’m surprised to learn that Ireland’s population is a lot less now than what it was then.
The Village of Ballinure
A few words about Irish roads. Once you’re off the main drag they can be very narrow. Tend to have just enough room for a car to pass a truck (somewhat carefully), with no verges and with their edges being delineated by either a hedge or a stone wall. The speed limit on the open road is 100 kph, which applies even in the vicinity of small villages. Lots of concealed entrances complete the picture.
An Irish Country Road – note the ‘Drive on the Left’ sticker on the windscreen
There are no advisory signs on corners. You occasionally get a ‘dangerous bend ahead’ (sometime propped up at ground level), or more alarmingly ‘extremely dangerous curve ahead’ which, if anything, was an understatement. Strangely (and perhaps as a means of compensating) they are mostly very courteous drivers, give way readily, only very few ever speed and they seem to have been immunised against road rage.
Got back to the hotel at about 1930 and found my laundry hadn’t been done. Apparently they had not sent the bag off and were most apolegetic. The Manager of Room Service (a delightful middle-aged lady) arranged for it to be washed on the premises and presented it all to me next morning, all nicely folded or ironed, and all for no charge whatsoever.
A Typical Tipperary Farm
All in all I love the Irish. They’re very cool without being slack, and seem to behave like they do out of a genuine desire to do the right thing by people. The girls epitomise the difference. London women generally make a noticeable attempt to be stylish; heels, black stockings, dress blouse, etc. The Welsh girls are a bit more boganesque; mini-skirt and ugh boots being common. Irish girls dress neatly but casually and functionally; jeans and runners are just fine and they use make-up generally to get a ‘natural’ look.
I found the Irish of 2005 (at least so far, in the country) to be respectful of each other and well spoken. It only gradually dawns on me that I haven’t heard a single person swear; unlike in Britain where the ‘f’ word flies thick and fast. They Irish are affable, courteous and hospitable to a fault, and easily engage in dialogue, a concept that seems to terrify anyone in London. If the Welsh still seem to be oppressed and rebellious, the Irish give the impression of being well over any of that. For one thing, unlike in Wales, I’ve only ever heard people speak English.