I had never really been all that comfortable with my Irish heritage. I've always been scared that our American society views the Irish as a bunch of drinkers, big talkers who cannot be relied upon. It's not accurate or even generally true, but it's out there, lurking behind many a conversation. The image of the poor, pathetic, disheveled McCourt family of Angela's Ashes haunts … [Read more...] about Waking the Dead
When I was 13 years old, my mother took my siblings and me to Rockaway Beach in New York City for the day. After we romped in the ocean and were sufficiently sunburned, we ended up at a rather run-down Irish tavern that was hosting a singing contest. Since I can carry a tune, my mother made me enter. All the entrants, adults and kids alike, sang well-known Irish songs. I … [Read more...] about The Blue Ribbon
Being Irish? Is being a clannish islander with all the good and all the bad that comes of that. Is being pagan and spiritual at the same time, in the same bone marrow, with all the good and all the bad that comes of that. Is not knowing how different you are until you meet the other islanders of all the world. Is being sad and happy in the one minute, changeable as … [Read more...] about Links in the Chain
My south London schoolmates and I struggled with our Irishness during the 1970s. Nearly all of us had Irish parents who had settled in England in the 1940s and 1950s, but we had been born and raised in London. Did that make us English or Irish? Most of us made regular summer trips to Ireland, looked Irish, even knew a few Irish words. Some of us just felt Irish – all our … [Read more...] about English or Irish?
Even now, here 30 years since, when I turn to the southwest in Ennis from Shannon, and head out on the peninsula that ends at Loop Head, and somewhere on that road get my first wind of turfsmoke, I remember the first time and the sense that I had then of coming home. "The name's good," the man in the customs hall had said, letting my bags pass without a look. I had a hundred … [Read more...] about Nora, an Excerpt