Monthly Archives: July 2012

Now I know what a firkin crane is

Wow there are unlimited chances to learn when you’re traveling and some interesting facts may be found right around the neighborhood where you are staying. That is, if you take the time to walk around.

I have been staying in the Kinlay House on the Bob and Joan Walk, near the St. Anne’s Church, and next to the Maldron Hotel that was once a hospital, and Skiddy’s Almshouse is on the other side of Kinlay House.

The walkway called Bob and Joan Walk in Shandon area of Cork, comes from the history of the Green Coat Hospital School that was built in 1716 for poor children to be educated. The statues called Bob and Joan were situated at the gate house of the school, but now they are housed inside the St. Anne’s Church.

The first time I heard the Bells of Shandon, they were ringing out a classical tune and I thought they were so peaceful sounding and wished to hear more. I did. They haven’t stopped. After awhile, I heard “Old McDonald Had a Farm” and then it was ‘Frere Jacques, Frere Jacques, Dormez Vous.”

Tourists are welcome to climb clear to the top of the tower and enjoy 360 degree views of the City of Cork. That’s not all; they are allowed to play the bells. They ring out most of the day.

The bells have been honored with a poem by Francis Sylvester Mahony. By the way, the bells first rang out on Dec. 7, 1752.

The Hotel Maldron is a converted hospital and has a grave yard in the backyard with large tombstones. They are so old that most of the names are no longer visible, I observed. But people are free to walk into the graveyard/park and rest on benches.

Skiddy’s Almshouse, came about when the wine merchant, Stephen Skiddy bequeathed in his 1584 will twenty-four pounds to the Mayor of Cork City to build a house for ten of the poorest people over age fifty.

According to what I have read in the website on the history of Cork City, the Almshouse was first erected in 1620.

In 1975 they were transformed into flats by the not-for-profit, Social Housing Development Company, and now have fourteen housing units.

I don’t just walk around on the streets, but I enjoy out-of-the-way streets and alleyways where small doors open to low ceilinged flats. Windows are covered with lacy curtains and trinkets on the window-sills.

I did some walking around this morning after going to St. Anne’s Church and then the Cork Butter Museum that is just a few steps away from the church and near another building called, The Firkin Crane. “What the heck is a firkin crane?” I asked the man who took my money at the museum.

“Firkins are barrels and the building had big cranes that lifted the firkins up to get them ready to transport once they were full of butter,” the man with a large, red and shiny face, said with a big smile.

That building has a leaky roof and there’s no money to fix it he added. Otherwise it would be part of the museum and the history of Ireland’s successful butter business.

Ireland has just recently seen an improvement in the economy, some have said. Although, I have observed many closed-up businesses and empty buildings.

To change the subject, I went to Blarney again on Friday. When I was there the first time I found an old hotel that reminded me of an old Colorado Western hotel and thought it would be fun to take a break from the hostel and spend one night there.

I did what I always do; I walked around the town. The community had a soccer game going on in the park and many people were cheering their favorite team. It turns out that the Blarney Castle Hotel, where I stayed sponsored one of the teams, and they won.

I felt for just a moment that I was part of the community.

“Did you wear your sun screen?” Someone asked as I crossed the street, yesterday.

“Bad weather isn’t it?” Another person said today because it was raining. Weather, even though there is nothing anyone can do about it, is number one topic in Ireland.

They are the most friendly, helpful, sensitive people I have ever met.


Street scenes near the Kinlay House

Touring Ireland

Waterfall at Killarney National Park, Ireland

Waterfall at Killarney National Park, Ireland

For those who may have just began reading my blog, to bring you into the loop as to how and why I’m on this one year journey as an expatiate, here’s the scoop: My job as a journalist expanded, my expenses expanded and like a 35 year old man’s receding hairline, my income stopped growing.

The risk to take a world-wide adventure far outweighed the risk of leaving a job with no future. I can pursue my love of writing in a different way, as in this blog.

When my book, “Too Close to the Sun” a Dutch boy becomes a man during WWII was published, I left the U.S. and now look forward to the blessings of each new day. Yesterday was one of those days, even though the guide that took a Paddy Wagon full of tourists said, “this summer is the worst I’ve ever seen.”

It has been raining nearly every day since I’ve been here, and began to rain some more yesterday, but ended with sunshine as we toured through Ireland’s “Forty Shades of Green” – a song with lyrics inspired by Johnny Cash, when he saw Ireland outside an airplane window on his way to a concert in England.

I want to give a few impressions of the long day’s trip through the shades of green. In Killarney, we leaned about Dr. Hans Liebherr who became rich from the invention, and building of a factory for a construction crane that would make transportation from ship to shore easier.

Through his riches and his appreciation of the Killarney beauty, he built Hotel Europe and the Dunloe Castle near the town of Killarney and the largest lake, Lough Lein and near the McGillycuddy Mountains. Impressive!

But for me, the most impressive view was that of the waterfall inside the Killarney National Park. A five minute walk took us through a forrest of moss covered, massive tree, and overhanging greenery. With sun poking through the jungle, and following a stream, we suddenly saw water falling through the thick forrest, tumbling down over rocks. It was loud and beautiful, and refreshing to see such massive amounts of water falling down a hill.

Next we saw “a view fit for any lady,” words coined by Queen Victoria when she visited Ireland. She heard that the views from up above were beautiful, but didn’t want to pursue the trip to find out for herself, so the story goes; so she sent her ladies-in-waiting. When they returned she asked them what they saw. That is when one lady responded, with the words that gave the top of the mountain notoriety.

Charlie Chaplin

Waterville, Ireland has an annual Charlie Chaplin comedy festival.

I have to say, this lady (myself) found the view beautiful but feel sorry the queen didn’t see it for herself. Many people have fallen in love with Ireland and return often for vacations, including Charlie Chaplin. He would stay so often in a hotel in Waterville, that he purchased a house there that his granddaughter still visits. Every August there is a comedy festival in the town in Chaplin’s honor. There is a statue of him in the town.

Charles De Gaulle visited the Sneem Village and found it peaceful, and spent lots of time there. The day we were through Sneem, the town was getting ready for a carnival. The top of another mountain we could see on one side of the road, a ring fortress and on the other side three Islands called Bull, Cow and Calf.

The town of Killorglin in County Kerry is wildly celebrated every year to the honor King Puck. King Puck is a wild goat that is captured and brought into town, put on top of table high above so everyone can him for the duration of the towns’ festival. After much humiliation, one of the horns is cut before he is delivered back to the mountains. The reason, according to Michael is so the same goat will not be picked for the honor the following year. This tradition has been going on since the 1600s. That’s a lot of goat to get.

The Ring of Kerry is a fort from the iron age, a fortress for families and their animals. Also old, but only from a modern point of view, are the ruins of a town that was left standing as it was during the potato famine of the 1844 and beyond. People died from starvation, and some left and many died on the way out of Ireland.

Stone houses

The stone houses remain undisturbed.

The stone houses are covered with vines and shrubs, but the farmers who currently own the properties where the houses are, will never disturb them. According to Michael, they are left for the ancestors of those who perished or for those who immigrated to America. The government passed a law to protect the houses.

You never know when an Irish person would like to return to his ancestor’s native homeland, and he/she would always be welcome. No one has ever judged the Irish for leaving to protect their family. “No matter how long you were away it’s always said, ‘how long are you home for’”, explained Michael.

He mentioned the American Indian Choctaw tribe, who heard of the plight of the Irish, and collected money to send to Ireland to help the starving Irish men, women and children.

It was a long, but wonderful day. I wished I had spent a bit more time in the city of Killarney. Horse drawn carriages, friendly people and beautiful surroundings could make me stay longer.

While sitting at a coffee shop, two men were sitting nearby and started up a conversation and when I left them to get back on the bus, they bid me farewell: ‘av a good day, luv.”

Don’t anyone give up/it will be fixed soon. Someone is working on it.

I’m having problems check back

Taking a break: I’ll post later tonight!

Long, but interesting day

Rock walls

Got on the Paddy Wagon again this morning at 8 a.m. and didn’t return back until 8 p.m., and I’m doing the same thing tomorrow (Wednesday).

Paul, the guide took us to visit the Cliffs of Moher. These Cliffs rise from the Atlantic Ocean, up to eight kilometers. From the Cliffs one can see the Aran Islands and other well-known sites. That is, if it’s not foggy.

The fog, that came along with strong winds and rain, concealed the Cliffs, so we couldn’t see too much. However, the visitors center offered a restaurant, shops and an educational program.

So, even though we didn’t get to experience the Cliffs, there was a lot to see along the way, both going to the Cliffs and coming back.

I’m just going to list some of what we saw, in the light of the late night and my need to rise early for another venture.

The St. Johns Castle and Bridge in Limerick was impressive, as well as the town and the university that is housed in that city. This city is where Frank McCourt lived and where the film, from the book he wrote, “Angela’s Ashes” was made. I learned from Paul, that some of the filming also took place in Shandon, near the hostel where I’m staying.

One interesting fact pointed out to us was several bullet holes on a house that had been fired there from the Irish Civil War in the years 1921-22.

Lahinch Golf Course, a bumpy and probably a difficult course, although, I wouldn’t know as I only tried golfing one time and gave up after the first miss. It sits on not just rolling hills but bumps and obstacles that seem to give professional golfers a chance to practice and improve their skills. I saw golfers out on the course in a drizzling rain and standing next to big fat cows, who must enjoy the grass in another way.

One of the final observations we saw on our way back to Cork was the

Bunratty Castle and Folk Park. It is in this Castle that you could enjoy a mediaeval banquet and traditional Irish night. I’m told that back in the mediaeval days the folks ate with their fingers, and no utencils.

“That sounds like fun,” I said, and a man who was on the bus, and playing hooky from a convention, said, “yes, and with a food fight, too.”

I met two lovely ladies, who were also taking a break from a conference. Shannon is from Creede, Colorado, and had at one time lived in Bayfield, where I lived for several years. Tracy, her friend is from Florida. They were disappointed to find the Bunratty Castle closed due to a scheduled private party. They were ready to see the castle and then take a taxi back to Limerick, where they had been staying.

It was a fun, and long day and I’m darn tired tonight.

I was fascinated with the rock walls (above) that are built without cement; a long held tradition for many centuries.


Bunratty Castle where you can eat as they did during the medieval days.

I was taken away on a Paddy Wagon

I was taken on a ride in the Paddy Wagon today.That’s the name of the awesome company that drives people to sites all over Ireland.

Before getting into the taxi to take me to the bus, however, the driver gave me some interesting tidbits about Ireland. I could have listened to him forever but I would have missed the bus.

The reason, he said, that people in the UK, including Ireland and Scotland, Wales and the many Islands, goes back to the horse-transportation days, centuries ago.

“The people rode their horses next to the fence on the left side of the road, so the warriors could reach into their coats and grab their sword with their right arm.”

I gave him some information that he didn’t know and it relates to the same reason. Men’s shirts button on the other side than do women’s blouses. That’s so the warrior could pull open his coat and reach for his sword.

Then the taxi driver told me why castle steps are wider toward the wall; same reason: when a warrior comes down the steps he has more room than the bad guys coming up the steps which puts him at an advantage.

The Paddy Wagon guide, Michael Kearney, was a delightful fellow, who could be a ‘voice over’ talent with his fetching voice and thick Irish accent. He was easy to understand, and offered up interesting historical information and even sang us a song. He’s a banjo player and plays in traditional Irish bands for set dancing. Set dancing, called Ce’ Ili’, can be seen on You Tube, he told me.

The town of Cork, which he pronounced Cock is a music town, he said.

Our first stop on the winding road in the Paddy Wagon was in the town of Kinsale.

Michael explained the road was winding from the animals many years ago. Cows wore a path between the grazing land. People then walked on the path, followed by horses used for transportation, then finally the car.

Better roads were necessary because farmers brought butter to the main town of Cork, and from there it was shipped out. When that happened, the road became known as the Butter Road.

Michael showed us the two forts in the town of Kinsale; the large fort called Charles and the smaller one, James, had chains strung between them with spikes that would stop enemy boats coming into the harbor.

Before we stopped in the charming town on Kinsale, Michael told us to observe the low ceiling in the older shops in the historical part of town. “The people were quite small back in the 1600s,” he said.

The buildings have been restored and fit close together in bright colors.

There was a turning point in the history of Kinsale, involving drama of the English, Spain and a family named McDonald’s. “It’s a very important part of our Irish history,” he said.

I’m not going to go into it here, because it can be easily researched.

Instead, let’s go to the Blarney Castle, okay? The Castle is six hundred years old.

The Blarney Stone at the very top of the Castle is known as the Stone of Eloquence. The story goes, as it has for 200 years, that if you kiss the stone, you will have the gift of eloquence and never again be at a loss for words.

Well, I climbed up the 100 or so winding stones just as the men did 600 years ago, and got to the top. I told myself that I wouldn’t bother walking all the way and then kiss the stone that must have thousands of germs on it throughout the 200 years. But when I got close to it, I changed my mind. What did the guy who climbed Mt. Everest say when asked why he did it? “Because it’s there,” he said.  Well, my answer to that question about kissing the Blarney Stone is, “because I was there.”

Our last stop was at Cobh, that Michael pronounced Coh. This city’s harbor was the .

last port of call for the ship Titanic. On April 15, 1912, while out at sea, it hit an iceberg and 1,514 people died in the disaster.

I thought about the Titanic a lot while roaming the town, viewing memorabilia in shop windows, and framed newspaper accounts of the ship, and remembered Denver’s own Molly Brown who survived the disaster and was credited with saving lives.

I knew where Molly Brown lived during her heyday in a large mansion in Denver. A movie and stage play was written about her called, “The Unsinkable Molly Brown.” Debby Reynolds played Molly in the movie version, and I saw the play in New York many years ago.




Michael Kearney of Cork, Ireland explains Irish historyBlarney CastleI kissed the blarney stoneA historical-looking drug store in the town of Cobh, the last harbor before the Titanic set sail.Castle steps


More angels arrived today. I finally asked at the reception desk if a room could be located for me that wasn’t on the top floor, and was told that the only room was a private room on the first floor. ‘Couldn’t afford that I told him and trudged on up the stairs.

Later when in the kitchen cooking eggs and mushy peas for lunch, the owner took me aside and told me the nice guy at reception told him about the chore I have ‘uping and downing’ on the stairs, and that he would give me the private room for the same price as the room with seven other females.  Angels? Yes indeed! I believe! I believe!

Before that good news I walked up the stone path to St. Anne’s Church Shandon for The Holy Eucharist services.

Arriving a bit early, a nice gentleman told me a bit of the history of the church. The church is one of Corks oldest buildings, that is almost 300 years old, and is the oldest church in continuous use today.

Inside are beautiful stained glass windows and a Christening font dated 1629. “It was rescued from the original church which was destroyed in the 1690 Siege of Cork,” he said.

“So after the fighting, then everyone goes back to church?” I sarcastically asked and he nodded yes.

The material that was available reads that the first rector in 1772, Rev’d Arthur Hyde, was the great-great grandfather of the first President of Ireland.

The eight bells in the tower were cast in 1750 and weigh over six tons. The weather vane at the top is a gold leaf painted salmon, which represents the River Lee.

I sat at the very front row and couldn’t see when to sit and stand, and because the seats are nice and soft, I couldn’t hear people getting up and down from their chairs, so I probably didn’t behave appropriately. But anyway, I did get communion, and when leaving the church, met some very nice people. One man knew all about Monterey and the famous people who live there, including Doris Day.

One other pamphlet available that I couldn’t resist was one about the Mother Jones Festival in Shandon Cork. I have taken some of the information for today’s blog.

A festival will celebrate the 175th anniversary of Mary Harris’s baptism in the  church. Mary Harris was other wise known as Mother Jones. (I could have called my grandmother that, for she was Mother (Nellie) Jones and a believer in the abolishment of alcohol – she was an active member of the WCTU-Women’s Christian Temperance Union).

Back to Mother Jones, the union organizer. Her family immigrated when she was a child first to Canada and then to the U.S. where she became a teacher. She married George Jones in 1860 and they settled in Memphis. The couple lived through the American Civil War and had four children.

Tragically, Memphis was hit by a yellow fever epidemic and Mary’s entire family died within a few days of each other.

Moving on in her life, she became active in union activities in Chicago during the industrial boom. She took an active part in the March of Covey’s unemployed army in 1894 and became a union organizer for the United Mine Workers Union of America. She organized workers throughout America.

She was outraged over the treatment of young children working long hours in mills and mines, and because of that, she lead the march of the Mill Children from Pennsylvania to the summer home of President Roosevelt in 1903.

Because of the courage she demonstrated, the miners began calling her Mother Jones. She was the only woman present at the Foundation of the Industrial Workers of the World in Chicago in 1905. Later she became active in the Socialist Party of America, and supported the Mexican revolution. That got her an acknowledgment by Pancho Villa.

Mother Jones was known for her passionate speeches in defense of working people. She died on Nov. 30, 1930 at age 93.

On Aug. 1 of this year, Mother Jones (Mary Harris) will be recognized for the first time in her native City of Cork. Plaques will be presented, along with concerts,  film exhibitions and a lecture at the Bells of Shandon (the church I attended).

The Irish premiere of Mother Jones, America’s Most Dangerous Woman” will be shown at the Maldron Hotel on July 31. (Next door to where I’m staying) A whole week has been dedicated to honor Mother Jones, with music, bell concert, choirs and bagpipes, to name a few.

I will be gone by then, but I cannot help but feel in awe of a woman who took her energies from what could have ruined her life, to doing good for others.



So, today, Sunday, was one of quiet reflection, and a thankful heart for the people who are so good to me. I can hear the bells from my room!


Back to the lunch and mushy peas. I’ve seen that on menus and wondered about them and found a small can at the grocery store. They are mushy and very delicious.

By the way, for those who follow me and aren’t aware of my book, here it is: “Too Close to the Sun” a Dutch boy becomes a man during WWII. It is available from Amazon.






Trees in the Blarney Park...I’m going to Blarney again tomorrow to see the castle.

What a trooper!


After a funeral?

ople give many clues that I’m not the young chick I used to be. This morning is an example. “You are such a trooper,” the owner of the hostel said as I walked down the fifty-five steps to the reception area from the room I was given at the top of the building.

The comment was the prize for making it up and down the steps at my age, I assume.

My trooper-goodness continued throughout the day when I swore, even in the days’ difficulties  I would never give up.

It was the trip to Blarney for the flower festival – a fund raiser for dogs-for-the-blind that put my age to the test.

I was told to catch the bus down the road from the Hostel and that it would be there at every 15 minutes.

But didn’t come in 15 minutes or even for one and one half hours.

Meanwhile people came by and each time I asked the question, “is this the right stop for the bus to Blarney?” And, “when does it come by?”

Every single person had a different response, and then a couple stopped to help me using their technology. The woman looked up the website for the bus company and got the phone number so the man could call and get the correct time.

“It will be here at 10:15. But if it doesn’t then you should walk to the bus station,” he said.

By now my legs and feet hurt so bad from waiting from 9 a.m., and at 10:15…no bus. Another lady stopped and called on her cell phone and got another answer.

“The bus will leave the station at 10:30 so I think it would be better for you to get the bus down there,” she advised.

By this time, three buses had stopped, including one on his second round, but none of the drivers had the correct answer either.

So, I walked to the station, got on the bus, and the driver advised me that he would come by again in Blarney at 3:20 p.m. But that didn’t happen either, instead it was one whole hour later that I waited on tired, sore legs.

Not to worry, however, because the rest of the time was enjoyable. The flower show was   nice with various activities and good people to speak with.

A couple makes jam from fruit and a liquor that was once illegal. I bought a small bottle to give to my next hostess in Macroon, Ireland.

A field of birds tethered to their posts were on display by a man who trains the birds for rescue. Big owls, a turkey vulture and other friends of the sky greeted people who oohed and awe’d at them. Then there was an animal petting area where I couldn’t resist holding an 8 week old rabbit, that seemed to enjoy a cuddle as well as I enjoyed giving it one.

Barry Noyce was there weaving baskets from reeds. His wife, Sarah doesn’t weave but supports the weaver in his hobby. He gave me rules about weaving I’d never heard before, but that was after I told him proudly that I had made one basket myself from reeds around our house in the Colorado mountains.

Some other observations I’ve made so far: American’s way of saying a house is ‘for rent’ is, ‘to let’ here. Food ‘to go’ as American’s say it,is  ‘take away’ here.

“Mini-brekkie?” Small breakfast, of course.

A phrase in common with America and other countries, is, ‘no problem’ in lieu of ‘you’re welcome’. When did ‘no problem’ become the response instead of you’re welcome?

I say thank you to the waitress for serving me and she says, “no problem”. Did I have a problem?

Observations in the hostel: persuasions of every type is represented on the walls in photos and posters, from Che Guevara, to Martin Luther King,  Elvis, to the Beatles, Jazz to Rock ‘n’Roll, oh, yes and Einstein, and many others.







Friday in the rain

I’m in the City of Cork, and it’s also the County seat. I arrived yesterday after a three hour train ride. From the train station, I got a taxi and arrived at the Hotel Montenotte. The hotel sits on top of a hill in an upscale neighborhood.

I sat in the lounge writing and answering email messages, and enjoyed a breathtaking view of the city lights from below as it got darker.

I got up late this morning and had breakfast in the restaurant, then checked out, got another taxi and then checked into the Kinlay Hostel.

The taxi driver over the ten minutes it took him to circumvent the city’s rolling hills and busy streets, talked non-stop about what he thought I should see in his city. I couldn’t understand a word he said. And I kept reminding myself we spoke the same kings language. He was a tall, dark haired,  mustached man and very serious.

As we were driving I pointed to the sign of the hotel, that he was speeding past, but he replied that he knew where to go. “I’m going to take you to the back of the hotel so you won’t have so many steps.” I understood that and thanked him for his consideration.

So when we got to the back of the place, he backed up into a very long and narrow alleyway over cobble-stones and finally stopped.

When I got my room, I was stunned to find out that it would be on the third floor which was really like a fifth floor. Fifty-five steps up the stairs to my room! A young woman picked up one of my suitcases and helped me to the room, while I had another two bags and my computer bag to hoist up all the steps.

I’m sharing the room with two young women from Spain, a woman from France and one other woman from Antigua.

Tired but rested up a bit, after getting settled, I took off walking down the road in the rain to the busy section of town, and immediately got lost when I wanted to walk back to the hostel. Some nice young man told me that I was close and to keep walking that way…he pointed to the corner of the street, and the bridge that goes over the river Lee.

As I walked back up the street on cobblestone and sidewalks to the hostel I heard the bells and chimes from the Shandon Church. This church is known to allow anyone to play the fun! I don’t know what the rules are yet, but whoever played at the time, provided good listening music.

Then it was time to find a grocery store, so I continued down the street where someone in the hostel told me I’d find a store. I stopped and asked three guys who were standing, smoking, near a pub. One guy was a large bald man with tattoos, another was about in his 70s, with a red nose and matching red eyes, and the other wore a white apron. When I asked about the store, they all spoke at once. I was happy they all pointed to the direction of the store because I couldn’t understand what they were saying. They appeared to be happy to be asked, however.

People have asked me about the language spoken in Ireland, and to answer that, the language is English and Irish. Nearly everything you see, such as road signs, for example, are written in both languages. Schools teach both languages to children, and most people have knowledge of both. I’ve been told that there are areas in Ireland where only Irish is spoken. Dialects are different, and accents make it easy for an Irish person to tell what area of Ireland the person comes from.

The city, from what I have seen so far is beautiful, with the river Lee running through it. I’ve seen an opera house, the famous and very old English market and many pubs and cafe’s in historical buildings.

It has been raining all day, and not good for photo taking opportunities, so that will have to wait. Maybe tomorrow?




Just for fun