Mr. Brown goes to Ireland

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Though a “news junkie” I’ve grown deeply weary of the unrelenting impeachment coverage, and so was grateful to escape for a recent vacation to the Emerald Isle of Ireland.

I’m a typical all-American mix of ethnicities, but primarily Irish, and like many Montanans, I’m proud to be Irish.

In Ireland there was coverage of the U.S. impeachment, but Brexit news dominated, followed by the riots in Spanish Catalonia, and the tragedy of the British boy killed by a car driven by an American diplomat’s wife, which I expect were barely covered here.

The roadblock to Britain leaving the European Union is how to deal with the currently open border between Ireland and Northern Ireland. Britain’s exit (Brexit) will complicate trade on the border crossings between Ireland proper and “the Narth” and has therefore been opposed by all of Ireland.

Further stigmatizing the issue is the still smoldering antipathy toward the British dating back to the “Potato Famine” of the 1840s. The British Empire may have been a civilizing influence in the world, but it has a sad legacy of brutal cruelty to its Irish cousins.

The British landlords purposely starved the Irish off the land when plenty of food was available in England.

A story well remembered in Ireland is that the desperately poor Choctaw Nation of American Indians sent a shipload of urgently needed food to the Irish at the height of the famine. I saw the striking monument “Kindred Spirits” (nine feathers shaped into a bowl) in Midleton, Cork, expressing deep gratitude for the Choctaw’s lifesaving humanitarian effort to stop the starving.

Pausing for lunch at a village pub near the ruins of a 1,200-year-old monastery we inquired about the mostly intact imposing tower dominating the other ruins of stone buildings. The only entrance into the tower was a small opening perhaps 30-feet up its side. Our vivacious, red-haired waitress sat down at our table and proudly told us the story. The tower, accessible only by a rope ladder, provided protection from blood-thirsty pagan Vikings who attacked monasteries in part because the monks seldom offered any resistance.

I commented that there are many Scandinavian descendants of the Vikings in my state of Montana.

Her teasing response was, “Well, a carse there are millions of people in the warld, and too bad you parsonly know the bad apples.” I asked about a family name, Mulligan, that might still be in that area, and she said it was.

Alas, the Vaughans on my wife’s side were on our travel plan, and we only had time to locate their cemetery before continuing via Tipperary and Limerick to Ennis in County Clare and a delightful stay at the home of our friend Roisin O’Laughlin.

We stood on the towering Cliffs of Moher, passed the lonely site of the wreck of the Spanish Armada and walked the nearby Flaggy Shore on Galway Bay immortalized by the poet Seamus Heaney in his poem “Postscript.” The countryside of much of western Ireland has had to be cleared for farming, not of timber, but of a carpet of stones which now make up a breathtaking labyrinth of stone fences extending endlessly over the deep green fields accented by bucolic bands of sheep and cattle, and the silent ruins of ancient stone castles and cottages.

Returning to Dublin, we were never far from meandering silver brooks coursing through shallow glens extending into the horizon. I’ve been to fascinating places, and beheld inspiring sights in my lengthening life, but deep within my heart and soul will always be Ireland.

Bob Brown, of Whitefish, is a former Montana secretary of state and state Senate president.

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