I cannot simply write a blog post about Ireland without mentioning a little bit of history, specifically the famine. I am currently reading a book about the truth about the famine and have realized just how horribly the Irish were treated, both before, during, and after the famine.
Ireland was mainly Roman Catholic way back when. Then all heck broke loose back in like 1541 when the English, who were Protestant, showed up and essentially told the Irish Catholics to convert or else. Irish Catholics were treated horribly with many laws, The Penal Laws, regarding how they could not practice their religion, they could not own land, and they didn’t even own their children. They were enslaved by the English and forced to work. One of the many places they worked was down in the Indies next to the African slaves. An Irish slave was actually sold for cheaper than an African slave.
I promise I am going somewhere with this.
When Ireland became apart of Britain in 1800, the workhouse system was adopted. There were workhouses in Britain so they decided to put them in Ireland as well. The only issue was that they made the workhouses just like the ones in Britain, despite different circumstances. Workhouses came into existence before the famine started, but they became loaded with people once it started in 1845.
This brings me to our fourth day in Ireland when we got to go inside the Portumna Workhouse Centre. It was full of history and our tour guide, Paula, was very knowledgeable too! They are renovating the workhouse so that way people can learn more about the history of them and the famine. We got to learn about not just that, but also about life in a workhouse and about the history of the Portumna Workhouse itself.
The workhouse system was there as a type of welfare, but to be used as an extreme last resort. Nobody wanted to go to the workhouse because families were separated and the conditions were beyond poor. To make matters worse, at the Portumna Workhouse, the Master there was cruel and unethical. I honestly can’t remember his name but one of the main things I do remember was that he would deny the “inmates”, as they were called, things that would make life easier. Then he ended up running away with a huge portion of the workhouse funds. He made it to the United States where he lived in New York City until he died and was buried on the East Coast.
We spent the remaining part of the day relaxing before we went to Dublin the following day.
In Dublin, our first stop was St. James’s Gate Brewery, where they brew Guinness. It was so much fun to learn all about how Guinness is made, how to taste it, and how to pour it. Guinness is truly like no other beer and it tastes so much different in Ireland than it does in the United States.
I learned how to pour my own pint of Guinness, too! It is honestly like a science and I was so scared the entire time that I was going to mess it up! I did not mess it up and I even got a cool little certificate saying that I poured it. I got to enjoy the pint that I did pour on the top floor of the brewery, which overlooked Dublin.
St. James’s Gate Brewery
After the brewery, we went over to St. Patrick’s Cathedral. It was absolutely beautiful, inside and out. They offered a student discount and I had told the lady that I did not have my student ID with me. I wanted to be honest because we had tried to get a student discount for me previously on the trip but they would not give it to us because I didn’t have my ID on me. The lady replied, “this is God’s house! You don’t need an ID!”
Everything inside of the cathedral was just beautiful. A part that really touched me was a tree where people could write on paper leaves a message to someone they know who has been killed during military service. Many people probably aren’t aware, but one of our family friends passed away back in November in a training accident. I wrote something for him, which I shared with my husband and he shared with friends who then shared with the pilot’s wife. Everyone thought it was so cool that I got to write something for him and leave it in St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin.
St. Patrick’s Cathedral
After the Cathedral, we went shopping before dinner. My mom was a woman on a mission to get a few more things in Ireland before they would move on to Isle of Man and I would go home. We went to dinner at The Hairy Lemon and I finally had shepherd’s pie, which I managed to nearly set my mouth on fire with (when your food is steaming, it is best to blow on it before inserting it into your mouth).
The following day was our last full day in Ireland before we would go our separate ways. My step-dad and I went golfing at the Portumna Golf Club! I honestly suck at golfing, despite having lessons when I was younger, but of course I would take up the opportunity to golf in Ireland! I also met some ducks and took a selfie with them. We had a great time! I didn’t lose a single golf ball either while my step-dad lost two, if I remember correctly. I am slightly proud of that fact.
I would go back to Ireland in a heartbeat. Everyone we met was friendly. The food was good. The scenery was beautiful!
I think perhaps my favorite part is that the pace of life is different and I got the impression, at least in the countryside, that the people are more of a substance over style type. Everything was just simple and it was wonderful.