Harmonious Wail hosts an annual trip to Ireland (fingers crossed — soon to be bi-annual!). We hit the road with 20+ of our closest friends, a couple of instruments and a hankering for seeing the nation where the magic started – and to drink some Jameson (or Sims and Maggie’s choice Bushmills!) and some Guiness (of coarse) in the process!!!.
The holiday season has us feeling nostalgic, and talking about the great times we’ve spent in Ireland. So we thought we’d make a listacle!
Here are a few of our favorite moments from Ireland these last few years:
1) Day 8, October 17, 2017: We were enroute from Dingle to Doolin. We made a quick stop in the little town of Listowel in Co. Kerry. The stay in Dingle was extended an extra day due to a “hurricane” Ophilia – the first to ever hit Ireland. We joked that we had survived the big breeze, really nothing more than your general late fall Wisconsin wind. It delayed the trip, but we enjoyed the extra day in town. And we got to be a part of Irish history — their first hurricane!
2) Day 8, October 17, 2017: In Listowel, Sims stopped into a wee store, which sold newspapers, cigarettes and candy… all that fun stuff. Back in the US, him and Maggie have a wood burner and a tiny wilderness “cabin/lean-to” way up north. They’ve found that Irish matches far outperform US matches. Why? Who knows. Sims asked about purchasing a bulk order of their Irish matches. The shopkeeper gave him a funny look. Fair enough.
Sims told him about the superiority of Irish matches over their US brethren. He responded with a story. After looking around the store to ensure he didn’t have an audience (or maybe to ensure that he did have an audience), he told Sims that his wife runs Iron Mans, and during her last one, she cheated on him. Needless to say, he wasn’t thrilled, and now they lived in the same tiny village. He needed a change. Sims recommended the Upper Peninsula and the guy asked him a bunch of questions about our neighbor to the north.
Sims told him about his son Henry’s passing and they both agreed that life is too short for anything less than greatness.
He gave Sims his card (for the match hook up) and told him that if Sims came back next year, and found the shopkeeper still in the town, that Sims should “kick his arse.” Now Sims probably can’t kick anyone’s arse, but if you join Harmonious Wail on our next voyage to Ireland, and that shopkeeper is still working in that small town, you are going to get to join in on the fun!
3) Day 5 (Oct 18, 2015 and Oct.12,2017): Number three is a moment so much as a person. An amazing, inspiring, wonderful person by the name of Billy Mag Fhloinn (tha tis the Irish spelling for Billy McGLinn). He’s really one of the highlights of our annual tour.
He lives on the Dingle Peninsula. He’s a professor at Limerick University (yes, that’s a real place!). He is a true Irishman. His knowledge of Irish history is remarkable. This past trip, we visited three sites accompanied by him, in all his wit and history. We went to an ancient ruins of what Billy says was (and still sort of is) a monastic site – the Reask Monastary.
They we headed onto a cemetery and church called Kilmlkadar.
We concluded our time together at a wonderfully preserved stone church, the Galarus Oratory.
Before we went galavanting to these amazing sites, Sims told Billy how good it was to see him again and shared with him how fond a memory he had of meeting him two years ago during the 2015 HWail Inishfree tour. Sims told Billy about Henry’s passing (it had happened shortly before this trip) and that him and Maggie were in quite a haze. They didn’t remember much from the trip, save for “some great lad named Billy.”
We told him how his talk of the “good people,” the faeries, the wee people, the spirits and the ancestors were comforting and that our heads and hearts sort of stayed with him in Ireland after that trip. Sims then told him that Henry had a fascination with 11:11. After some research and a lot of reading SIms and Mag have learned that the portals to the spirit world – to the other world – are open at 11:11 – fascinating! Henry even referenced this in the lyrics of The Vegan Zombie’s Lament saying — “… and if you could be everywhere and every time at the same time, do you think that it would change a thing?”
The bus pulled into the Galarus Oratory as Sims mentioned 11:11. Billy told him to take a seat and join him as they driver took him home. As they drove the few miles back to his place he told Sims that he had written his dissertation on 11:11 – it’s actually 11/11, as in November 11. As we learned about the spirit world – there are NO dismissible coincidences.
4) October 19, 2015: After our time with Billy, we did some more traveling. A few days later, we met back up with him at the Bridge Inn Pub in Dingle for a session. Sims was wearing Henry’s Dexter Pub coat and was digging the band in the crowded bar.
Sims was leaning against the wall, trying not to block the view of the table along the wall. He was completely zoned the band when someone at the table tapped him on the arm. “Excuse me sir. Excuse me! You’re on fire. Sir, you’re on fire. YOU! ARE! ON! FIRE!!!!”
Sure enough, there was a candle on a low shelf on the wall his (or rather Henry’s) coat was ablaze up the back. He pushed off the wall and was suddenly in the middle of the crowded bar with flames shooting up his back as he swatted and danced himself to safety.
The fire left a hole in the jacket the size of a golf ball. He was obviously devastated! He walked up and down the street in tears, full of remorse apologizing to Henry. Sims was so loud (and devastated) that Henry even responded. “Patch it!.”
That was enough to bring Sims back in from the cold. He spent the rest of the night sitting in with the band. The craic was mighty and the night turned out to be magical.
There’s still a hole in the jacket. With a Co. Kerry patch over the hole
5) Day 2 October 11,2017: Here is a favorite moment from Robert Suchor, one of our many awesome compatriots, who joined us on one of these awesome tours:
The most poignant scene of our tour in Ireland for me had to be at a graveyard near Skibbereen in County Cork. The flat, mowed grass rectangle is a mass grave containing an estimated 8,000 to 10,000, victims of the great famine that lasted 1845 to 1852. It’s a grim reminder of how close to the edge we all live. It’s also a perfect monument to laissez-faire capitalism. At the same time that about a million people were dying of starvation and starvation-related diseases in Ireland, and millions more were being driven off the land and out of the country, large amounts of food were being exported from Ireland to England. The prevailing laissez-faire philosophy in the British Parliament at the time ensured that little aid would be provided to the starving Irish. Market-based solutions were to be sought for every problem, and the market-based solution to the famine was decidedly Malthusian: let the excess population starve.
Jealous of all the fun we’ve been having? Join us on an upcoming trip.