Thursday, March 7, 2013

Irish Hospitality and Inhospitality

Extraordinary Dreams of an Ireland Traveler
Ron L. Cherry, Author
Christmas Cracker
Thank you Ron for another outstanding post for my blog.  It is a pleasure to have you return and I invite you to come back anytime you like.
Here we share with you Ron's life in a small way but wanted you to see what a great author and person he truly is. Be sure to visit his web site.
As a native of California, R. L. Cherry has spent most of his life in the Golden State. However, the five years he lived on the Isle of Man in the British Isles not only gave him many ideas for his writing, but also a less Americentric perspective.  Until Christmas Cracker, his only bound publication was his Masters’ thesis. A copy is on a shelf in the library of the Centre for Manx Studies on the Isle of Man, possibly the only American contribution. For over five years he has written a column under the name Ron Cherry on classic cars and hot rods for The Union newspaper in Grass Valley, CA, which reflects his passion for such works of automotive art.
R.L. Cherry
The following is the post from R.L. Cherry as he shares his visit to Ireland:
Irish Hospitality and Inhospitality
When I read Mamie’s book Extraordinary Ireland, it brought back memories of my trips there.  Her only encounter with a rude Irish hotel staff reminded me of the only time I experienced the same, although in a place she missed: Glendalough.  But that encounter also gave me an experience in true Irish hospitality.
Before we left for Ireland in 1993, a very good friend of ours in California, Father Tim (or Tadgh in Irish) MacCarthy, gave us the names and contact information for two of his brothers in Ireland.  You will find Father Tim in my upcoming book Foul Shot and he is the only character that is based on a real person, albeit transported from Southern California to Chicago for the sake of the story.  He is a warm and generous man and we found his brothers to be the same.  My wife Kelly, my daughter Noelle and I left Dublin in the morning in our rented car, toured the stately Powerscourt Gardens (with the shell of the mansion standing guard) and visited the stunning Powerscourt Falls (the highest in Ireland) before driving down to Graystones, where Jim MacCarthy and his wife Annette lived.  Our plan was to have dinner with them before driving up to Glendalough in the Wicklow Mountains.  We had made reservations at the Glendalough Hotel, which was the only hotel there and highly rated.  Upon booking we had been advised that our payment was non-refundable because the rooms would be held for us whether we showed or not. 
Annette met us in Graystones and led us to their house.  Our plan had been to take them and their family out to dinner at a local restaurant.  When we arrived at their house, Jim was still on his way driving back from Cork (several hours on Irish roads).  Their daughter Aine was about the same age as Noelle and they had much in common, including being avid swimmers, so they soon were off in Aine’s room enjoying themselves.  When Jim arrived home, it was getting late and he was tired, so Annette decided to rustle up a quick dinner.  For a salad, she chopped up raw onions and tomatoes with a little oil as dressing.  Now two things Noelle despised most at that time were raw onions and tomatoes, but she had been taught to eat whatever was served her when she was a guest.  Kelly told Annette and they decided to see what would happen.  When we sat down to dinner and the food was passed around, Annette handed Noelle the salad.  She did not react, but swiftly passed it to the next person without taking any of her most despised foods.  Annette and Kelly started to laugh.  Fortunately, their kids were far more picky than Noelle, so Annette just saw it as amusing.
There are times in life when you meet people for the first time and feel like you’ve known them for years.  That is how it was with Jim and Annette.  Jim was a pipe smoker and, at that time, I was too.  Jim liked a glass of whiskey and I did too (and still do).  But it was the conversation that kept us there far later than we should have been.  It was about 10 when we were reluctantly ready to leave and Jim said to call the hotel to make sure there would be no problems.  I called, identified myself and said I was making sure the room we had paid for was ready.  The desk clerk laid the phone down.  After waiting for about 10 minutes, I hung up and called again.  The line was busy.  I tried a few more times, then gave up and decided to drive to the hotel. 
We were on the coast at Graystones and it was a bit of a drive up to Glendalough.  Jim said he would drive his car to guide us there.  These were the days before a cell phone or a GPS.  We had a good map, but at night that was not that great in Ireland.  So we accepted Jim’s offer and Aine went along to keep him company.  As we drove the narrow, winding roads with minimal or non-existent signage that went up the Wicklow Mountains, I was very grateful he was in the lead.  It took almost an hour and a half to get there.  When we finally arrived, the front door to the hotel was locked.  There was a pub attached, so we went through its door and then into the hotel.  That’s when things took a turn for the worst.
I soon understood why the front door had been locked, even though we should have been expected.  Our rooms, we were told, had been given to others because they thought we weren’t coming.  I guess getting paid twice for the rooms had been too great a temptation.  There were no other rooms available.  At that point, Jim stepped forward.  Now, he had seemed the very easy-going, convivial sort all night, but I saw the fire of an Irish warrior in his eyes as he said, “This is not how we treat our guests in Ireland.”  The young man behind the counter was shaking in his boots as he said, “Well, there is one room we might offer.  It’s a staff room, but no one is sleeping there tonight.”  We went to check it out.
The room was a pigsty, with dirty clothes strewn about and unmade beds.  I could see Noelle tearing up.  Jim was furious.  “You’re coming back to our house,” he said.  This was not a matter for discussion.  He called Annette and told her to make up their son’s room (he was away at university) because we were on our way.  The hotel attendant generously offered to refund our money.  I hate to think what Jim would have done if he had not.
It was one in the morning when we got back to Jim and Annette’s.  Kelly and I had a room with twin beds and clean sheets.  Noelle shared a room with Aine.  When we finally awoke, Annette served us a full Irish breakfast.  Jim was already at work.  Because of us, he had been late to bed and early to rise.  But I will never forget the great Irish hospitality they gave us, nor the horrible hospitality the Glendalough Hotel gave us.  Although we did not have time to see Glendalough’s wonderful and inspiring monastery that trip, we did see it on our next one.  I heartily recommend taking the time to drive up the beautiful Wicklow Mountains to see it.  I cannot recommend the hotel.  But if Jim and Annette ever open a B&B, there you will find true Irish hospitality.
Thank you for following,
Rosemary "Mamie" Adkins



  1. A bit of happenstance here, as I just happen to be reading Christmas Cracker right now. I am enjoying it a lot. Interesting that you chose to make your main character a woman.

  2. When we traveled Ireland, we stayed primarily in B and Bs. They were run by delightful, hospitable people. However, the hotels we stayed at were also run by delightful, hospitable people. Thankfully, we never ran into what sounds like a horror hotel--not in Ireland.

  3. I've never had an urge to go to Ireland, but all these great stories are tempting me. Your holiday is coming up too:)

  4. Rosemary, you have been awarded the Reality Blog Award. Go to Awakenings for acceptance and the 'rules'.

    Be sure to leave a comment so I know you received the notification.

    Hugs across the miles!