Irish Runaround is a collection of stories, all true, of my trips to Ireland for holidays and to see friends. I don’t really care for dates or chronological facts, the main thing is what happened, not when.
I’m Yorkshire born and bred and typically, more proud to be Yorkshire than English.
Dad’s from Devon, Mum’s from Sheffield. However, all my Mum’s father’s brothers and sisters had ginger hair (and glasses). Their father arrived in Sheffield via Liverpool looking for work, arriving in Liverpool we think, via the Irish Sea. The work didn’t last long, by all accounts he spent all his wages on alcohol, his wife hid whatever else money they had behind the fire to stop him spending it on alcohol, with 9 kids it must have been a hard existence.
By stark comparison, I had a normal upbringing, we weren’t rich and we never relied on state aid, in fact we never took one penny from the social pot. I was brought up to be honest and hard working, I wasn’t influenced by anyone else and formed my own opinions about how I should live and how I should conduct myself.
The most important of these opinions, apart from which football team I would support for life, was to be a socialist and a republican. As farmers, my father’s land was stolen from them by rich landowners at knife, sword or gun point under threat of death and starvation. Of course, there was no proof they ever had it because only the rich could read or write back then so they did what they bloody wanted. I’d like it back.
Religion doesn’t make any sense to me either. I can imagine when you get close to death, it’s something to cling onto but it’s been the cause of so many wars and deaths that I had to question the logic of it all and couldn’t find a grain of truth, evidence or logic in religion at all.
My spiritual home is of course Yorkshire but Ireland, in particular around the Roscommon area, pulls really hard. I feel at peace and at ease there. It feels like I belong there but I know I don’t. The land is hard, rocky and boggy, all the best lands were stolen by rich landowners.
A lot has changed since my last visit. The pubs have changed hands. They have closing times these days. No longer can you sit outside with a pint of Guinness waiting for the pub to open inside. The rivers and lakes have fishing platforms, when I was there we had to wade into the bog and use milk crates as platforms. Roscommon hospital is under threat. The meat factory is still there at Athleague though, now called Kepak. The farmers seem better off and the roads are definitely better than my first visit, pre-EEC. There are less cars with exhausts hanging off and the tractors don’t have bald back tyres anymore. The EU has been good to Eire.
Modern housing estates are sprouting all aver the place. However, the Celtic Tiger, the big money and property boom, has bust. Estates of brand new, out of the box, houses are lying empty, chained off because the money has dried up, the jobs & businesses weren’t sustainable & job losses hit terribly hard. House prices are stupid in Dublin especially, where a 3 bedroom semi will cost over €350,000 yet out in the provinces a 4 bedroom detached can be purchased for €150,000 on one of those Celtic Tiger estates in the middle of nowhere.