September 5, 2011 was a very special day. Along with my husband of 30 years and our 19-year-old daughter, we boarded an Irish Ferry in Holyhead, Wales, to journey across the sea to Ireland.
Ireland; the country my father, whose name was Jack, had talked about, sung about, told endless stories about and had longed for until his death in 2010.
Ireland, the country we grew up knowing and loving, through living, through story, through poetry and song. Ireland, the country stamped on our upbringing and written on our dreams!
I will never forget our trip on that Ferry. It was a clear day and very windy. In Holyhead they assured us it should be a pretty smooth trip. I thought I would sit inside and chat as we had met a lovely Irish couple and they were happy to talk to us about all manner of things.
I had to excuse myself after a short time however, as I found it much easier to calm my stomach if I was outside on the deck. I am not one who is fond of flying, nor does the prospect of a rough sea journey thrill me, however I had a mission to fulfill. To be honest I would say that even though my stomach was churning from the swell on the Irish Sea and even though I had to spend the bulk of the journey outside in the cold September wind, somehow I had not a care in the world. I was heading for Ireland, for my heart’s home.
This was a journey I had talked about, planned and longed for, for the better part of my adult life and nothing was going to spoil it for me. As I stood out on that deck I remember singing at the top of my voice a song my dad had taught me on his knee; Galway Bay …“If ever I go across the sea to Ireland” I sang loudly to the wind. Words cannot express the gamut of emotion I was feeling as I watched the Emerald Isle come into view on that clear September morning. I know that I shed more than one tear.
We landed in Dublin on that day at around lunchtime on what would have been my father’s ninety-fifth birthday. A lovely Irishman in a black taxi picked us up to take us to our hotel ‘The Grafton Capitol’. He got to telling us a story or two. “Do yourselves a favour,” he said, “Visit the Guinness Factory and have dinner at the Brazen Head Hotel”.
He was busy chatting and took us past our destination. We all laughed, “No trouble” he said and “No extra cost”! When he left us he shook our hands and helped us with our bags. This was a beautiful friendly welcome to Ireland on an auspicious day and that taxi driver had no idea that he reminded me of my father so very much.
Of course we went to the Guinness factory and of course we had dinner at the Brazen Head and we left an Australian five-dollar note there that read “Happy Birthday Jack…Irish Forever”. I stapled it over the door of the small bar in that hotel and I often wonder if it still remains!