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Coming Home to Ireland
I have roamed the catacombs in Paris, sunbathed topless on a Greek island, climbed volcanoes in Korea and scouted for lions in Tanzania, but it was in Ireland that I came “home.”
I suppose I got my love of Ireland from my mother, who read books like Leon Uris’ “Trinity” and listened to the Clancy Brothers and the Irish Rovers. Her mother’s maiden name was Ferrel and she said the family hailed from County Longford.
My father’s side of the family also has Irish roots and both sides immigrated to America in the 1750s, landing nearly side by side in Virginia. It only took them 200 years to come together when my parents met in the 1950s in Washington.
As diluted as my heritage is, when I first set foot in Ireland I immediately saw the family resemblance. There were the ruddy cheeks and thin lips, the large noses and stocky bodies; a sturdy folk, able to endure whatever trials life threw at them, all with a wicked, fatalistic sense of humor — just like my family.
Perhaps it also helped that the climate and countryside were so similar to my home in the Pacific Northwest: wet and green.
Since my first visit in 2002, I’ve returned six times and have touched on nearly all corners of this island that would fit inside Washington. I find I am most drawn to the west coast, with its rugged beauty, stunning landscapes and rich history.
An iconic experience
There is one area in particular that encapsulates the Irish experience, yet is seldom visited by tourists. The Beara Peninsula stretches out into the Atlantic off the southwest tip of Ireland, a lonely sibling to its more popular brethren to the west, the Ring of Kerry and the Dingle Peninsula.
The Beara was a busy place during the 1800s, as copper was pulled from its rocky hills and shipped to Europe. English author Daphne du Maurier chronicled the copper mining industry on the Beara in her novel, “Hungry Hill.”
But the mines shut down in the mid-1900s and the Beara slipped into a slumber, sustained by fishing and what few tourists find their way there.
Nearly untouched by the “Celtic Tiger” boom of the mid-2000s, a trip to the Beara is a trip back in time. Neolithic stone passage graves stand undisturbed on wind-swept hills, farmers herd cattle and sheep down the main road and pub patrons still talk about the fall of the O’Sullivan Beara clan, more than 400 years ago.
Nowhere is the famous Irish hospitality more evident than on this low-key peninsula.
And for a lass who looks more than a wee bit Irish, there’s always a ready bar stool and a freshly pulled pint of the black stuff.
There’s no place like home.
About the presenter:
Marcie Miller is a Northwest native and award-winning journalist with a passion for travel, writing and photography. She has worked for newspapers in Tanzania and South Korea, where she also taught English to grade schoolers.
Most recently she was the features editor at the Peninsula Daily News.
Miller is the managing editor for Incomes Abroad, a publication of International Living magazine. She currently is based in Waterford, Ireland.
She divides her time between Port Angeles and Bainbridge Island and is working on cracking the e-book market.
Her travels have taken her to Canada, Hawaii, New Zealand, Fiji, Kenya, Tanzania, Zanzibar, Bulgaria, France, Greece, Italy, England, Scotland, South Korea, Japan and, of course, Ireland.
About the presentation:
Traveler’s Journal is a presentation of the Peninsula Trails Coalition.
All of the money raised is used to buy project supplies and food to feed volunteers working on Olympic Discovery Trail projects.
Shows start at 7 p.m. in the Sequim High School cafeteria at 601 N. Sequim Ave. The cafeteria benches are hard; people should bring their own cushions.
Suggested donation is $5 for adults. Attendees 18 and younger are welcome for free.
One selected photo enlargement is given away each week as a door prize.
Call Dave Shreffler at 683-1734 for more information.