The full Irish

17 07 2011

The James Gill narrowly avoids yet another 200 year old bridge.

I spent this week steering a barge around the middle of Ireland, accompanied by Scottish Wife and four other friends, including SW’s sister Sue. At one point, the topic of my golf blog came up. “Ooh. I love reading your blog”, said Sue. ” Except the bits about golf .” So, with a nod to Sue, this post is going to be almost entirely about our canal trip, with maybe just a smidgin of golf snuck in near the end.

You know you’re in Ireland when… you get on the bus outside Dublin Airport and ask if it goes to Kildare. ” So it does”, says the driver. “And is it the town centre you’ll be wanting?” When I said I thought so, he went on ” Dat’s grand, ‘cos that’s the only place we stop.” He then asked if we’d like some diddly diddly music on the radio. When we looked blank, he continued. ” You know, the Michael Flatley fella, Riverdance an’ all dat stuff.”  “That’ll be grand then,” I said, immediately falling prey to bad Irish accent disease. And so diddly diddly music it was, all the way to Kildare.

After a quick pub lunch (Irish roast beef and Guinness, natch) we took a taxi to the village of Rathangan, where we were picking up the canal boat. Now is as good a time as any to introduce this week’s quiz: how do you pronounce the following towns, villages and counties? We passed through all of them over the course of the week. Say them out loud now, in your best Irish accent:

a) Rathangan

b) Daingean

c) Laois

d) Monasterevin

e) Athy

After a ten minute refresher course on how to start, steer and – most important of all – stop a canal boat, we were off and running, taking our 50 foot barge, the ‘James Gill’, through the first set of locks and on up the Barrow Navigation (a branch of the Grand Canal) until we reached our first pub, the Traveller’s Rest at Ballyteague. This seemed an excellent time to a) hone our oral comprehension skills in Irish and b) get to grips with Gaelic football on the big screen TV (Kildare were busy laying a whupping on County Wexlow or somebody). Not that I could really understand the finer points: when I asked the guy next to me if what appeared to be an attempted on field mugging was a fair challenge or not, he laughed and said “If the ref’s not looking, just about everything is legal.” A bit like hockey, then. Unfortunately, the combination of a) and b) led inexorably to c): the continuation of the downward spiral that is the inevitable result of Guinness suddenly becoming your staple diet.

And so it went. The beautiful Irish countryside flashed by, insofar as anything can be said to flash by when you’re travelling at three miles per hour. We would spend all day progressing about 10 or 12 miles and find ourselves in a different town or village, having spent hours pootling along drinking endless cups of tea, admiring the wildlife (it’s surprising how excited you can get about seeing a heron or a perch or, to be honest,  a donkey or a cow when the world is moving at such a slow pace that even old men with walking sticks are overtaking you). Every now and then we’d arrive at what looked like an impossibly narrow bridge or a large, looming lock and then we’d REALLY slow down so that the only damage caused was to my pride, at being such a terrible driver. Funny really, when I’ve always considered driving to be the best part of my golf game.

We had great food everywhere we went. Roast beef and Guinness (again) in Edenderry, a barbecue on the banks of the canal near Vicarstown, lamb and pork and whatever else Phil (a sort of poor man’s Jamie Oliver) could find in the butchers that are to be found everywhere in this part of Ireland and, finally, in the unlikeliest of settings – a supermarket in Monasterevin – we had the full Irish breakfast. For just 7 euros (under $10) you got two eggs, three sausages, two huge rashers of back bacon, mushrooms, fried tomatoes, black pudding and as much (sliced white) toast as you could eat, all washed down with the sort of tea my Nan used to make : stick-to-your-ribs tea that you could stand your spoon straight up in. ‘Heaven in Monasterevin’ was how I put it and surely one of  the highlights of the tour.

But not THE highlight. That honour has to go to Thursday night at Clancy’s Bar in Athy. Karin, the lovely owner of  Canalways, had told us that this was an evening not to be missed – there’s been music sessions here every Thursday night for the last 45 years!  Imagine, if you can, somebody’s front room connected by a small hatch to a bar. Then put in 21 musicians, playing everything from a squeeze box, a flute and a tin whistle to a banjo, a guitar, a fiddle and a couple of drums and then throw in some Irish bagpipes and a couple of singers who literally made you shed tears of emotion, and you’ve got two thirds of the room filled. Now squeeze in a dozen or so eager onlookers (and sometime participants) and a few more crammed into the hallway and you get something like this:

The back room at Clancy’s Bar, Athy, County Kildare

And then, a little later, through a glass darkly, this:

The sort of picture you probably won’t take until you’re on your fifth pint of Guinness…

Words can’t describe how great an evening it was. Suffice it to say that Phil’s wife Jan was wiping away the tears before the notes from the first song had died away, Julie and John had huge grins fixed to their faces all evening long and I, for reasons that are still not completely clear to me but may not be entirely unrelated to the aforementioned five pints of Guinness, answered the call for a ‘song from the visitors’ with an emotional if not exactly note-perfect rendition of  ‘O, Canada’. What a brilliant evening! It was a privilege to be there…

Anyway, that’s all for this week. The golf bit will have to wait for another time. In the meantime here’s the answers to the quiz:

a) Rathangan is pronounced ‘Rattangan’. ( Easy eh?)

b) Daingean = Dangan

c) Laois = Leash

d) Monasterevin = Monster Evan

e) Athy = A Tie

If you got them all right – you’re the full Irish!

All da best (and mile Failte),

Cap’n Dave

Himself, trying to strike a nautical pose…




12 responses

17 07 2011

Lovely post, DB…wish I was there, sounds like a great trip. The breakfast did it for me.

Best, safe travels…BHD

17 07 2011
Bagger Dave

Thanks, Ben. The trip was absolutely brilliant. We’re back in Essex now, but off to Suffolk tomorrow. Back in BC by the weekend to give the liver a rest.



17 07 2011
Glennie the bag man

Sounds as if you are having a wonderful time. The part I don’t understand is how you were actually able to stay awake in an Irish pub! I recall last year in Doonbeg when you passed out before the end of the first verse of “When Irish Eyes are…. ZZZZZZZZZZZ”
Anyway say a big “Hi” to Darren, Graeme and Rory while you are there and see you back this way soon.
cheers! – from the other sandbagger

23 07 2011
Bagger Dave

Totally true, Glenny, I have to admit. Huge improvement this time round – we staggered home after midnight and a half dozen Guinness. Nectar!


17 07 2011

Ah to be sure ’tis a briliant post me boy. Dave, you have whet our combined whistles as we leave for a week in Ireland in Sept. Sadly we will be in a car not a barge. I do envy you.
Hopefully MY face will not look as worried as the one on Capt. Ahab as he tries to navigate his barge down the canal.
All da best.

23 07 2011
Bagger Dave

You’re in for a treat, Martin!


17 07 2011

Hi Dave and Julie,
We are in Ireland for 8 days in Sept, though not on a barge, so this certainly has whetted the appetite – no Guinness for me!!
Have fun. Blessings Cynthia

23 07 2011
Bagger Dave

If you can get to Clancy’s Bar in Athy around 8:00 on a Thursday night, Cynthia, I guarantee you a wonderful evening, Guinness or no Guinness. Most of the musicians drank 7 Up and water – an interesting combination…


18 07 2011
Bud Bryan

Dave you look like a great naval officer in the British Navy of the
year of our lord 1787. All the best
Bud Bryan

23 07 2011
Bagger Dave

If the British Navy had had a few more officers like me, Bud, I don’t think we’d have beaten the French at the Battle of Trafalgar. I’d have been too busy ramming everything in the vicinity.



30 04 2014
Steve Ellis

Thanks for re-Blog Dave! T’was truly an adventure we’d all like to have. It must have been so much fun on the old barge. Great night in the bar too. Isn’t live grand?


30 04 2014
Bagger Dave

Yes it is, Stevo. Hope work was ok today and hope to see you on Friday.

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