It was in February of 2006 that my friend Nancy asked if I would consider going with her to Ireland in late March. To make a long story short, I said yes. She and I would go with the tour, but the husbands would stay at home. The plan was to drive to Baltimore, have dinner at her mother’s house where we would spend the night, and the guys would go back home. Nancy and I would catch the bus early in the morning that would take us to New York where we would board the plane for Ireland. Plan intact, the big day arrived, the car was loaded, and Richard and Dick took us to Nancy’s house, which was very near the bus station. We were Ireland bound.
Stepping into Ann Nancy Smith’s home in March is like stepping into a little piece of Ireland. We were greeted at the door by a short stocky, little lady with coppery red curly hair who still had one pink plastic roller clamped tightly to her forehead. There are Irish trinkets and wall hangings scattered throughout the comfortable, carpeted house with a staircase going up the side of the living room. One framed cross – stitch piece hanging in the kitchen, proudly stated “American by birth, Irish by the grace of God”. Little did I know at the time, that this was the frame of mind that made up the whole tour.
Ann Nancy is an Irish Catholic and speaks much about her love for God and disappointment with the organized church. She loves to smoke cigarettes and play cards. Her “gift” is “holding” and evidently she has won substantially enough to prove it. She has played in many tournaments over the years, even before it was legal, and has a few “raid” stories to tell as well.
The kitchen table was set with Irish place mats and she had cooked us a wonderful meal of corned beef and cabbage with boiled potatoes and applesauce on the side. By the time dinner was served, the roller was gone and we laughed at the gambling stories and enjoyed the talk of Irish Saints. The name Nancy comes from the word annunciation and she was named for Saint Ann, but goes by Nancy. When she was born, good catholic families named their children after the Saints. By the time her daughter was born, that was no longer necessarily the case, so they dropped the Ann.
It was such a pleasant evening and gave me an insight to the people from Baltimore that would be sharing my Irish experience. This was my first trip, but I was traveling with seasoned Irish tourists who were indeed, “Irish by the grace of God.” On a river boat, our last day there, I was delighted to hear Irish songs I remembered my parents singing.
My heritage is Irish protestant. My grandfather’s family came to settle in the Irish settlement of Armagh in western Pennsylvania. My mother considers Armagh her home town and in 1992 she attended the 200th anniversary of this small town. Councillor Macartney and his wife, Iris, from Armagh in Northern Ireland were the grand marshalls of the parade for the celebration. On St Patrick’s Day, I usually wear Orange, with a little green to honor my Irish Catholic friends. I find that many people don’t know that orange is the color for Irish protestant. So I do indeed have Irish ties, but they were not nearly so strong as those I met from Baltimore. Upon arriving home, I told people that, these were the folks who drank green beer and marched in the St Patrick’s day parade, celebrating that holiday with the same fervor I celebrate the Super Bowl. OK, maybe more than that.
Before retiring on the eve before our flight to Ireland, I looked through a large book on the dresser in my bedroom called “A Day in the Life of Ireland.” The pictures were large and breathtaking, the excitment was building. I felt like my trip had already begun and I was staying in an Ireland Bed and Breakfast home.
There is nothing more Irish than The Wild Irish Rose and kissing the famed blarney stone. Join me next time and you will know why I have the “gift of gab.”