From London we went to Holyhead at the far extremity of Wales to get the boat for Kingstown in Ireland. It was a three-hour run across the Channel, but far out at sea I saw the hills of Ireland rise like clouds on the horizon an hour or so before we landed. I was in somewhat of a daze, for Ireland to me was a sort of fairyland that I knew only in a dreamy way, and never expected to see in reality. In a kind of abstraction I stepped on the shore, when my friend roused my sensese [senses] by grasping my hand, giving it a good shake and wishing me welcome to Ireland - a Cead Mille Failthe!
Our stay in Dublin was very short, giving us time to visit only Glasnevin Cemetery and the tomb of O’Connell, Phoenix Park, the old Parliament houses and a couple of churches, when we boarded the train for Enniscorthy on the Dublin, Wicklow and Wexford Railway. We passed through the Vale of Avoca and crossed the bridge at the meeting of the Waters of Avonmore and the Avonbeg.
“There is not in the wide world a valley so sweet
As that vale in whose bosom the bright waters meet.
“Sweet Vale of Avoca, how calm could I rest
In thy bosom of shade with the friends I love best,
Where the storms of life’s troubles forever would cease,
And our hearts, like the waters, be mingled in peace.”
At the station of Enniscothy [Enniscorthy] we were met by a host of waiting friends, anxious to welcome the old friend and the new one. I needed no introduction to my Uncle James, for I knew him at once from his resemblance to my father. None however, met me as a stranger, and I could see the beginning of a pleasant summer.
Ireland! I found it a real country after all. It was peopled with men and women--yes, even boys and girls, like other places. It was not a fairy or a dream land; it was something of a homeland, for I found blood relatives, and saw the places and persons whom I had heard spoken of in many a fireside conversation at home. I saw no fairies, banshees or leprechauns, but I saw many hedges and ditches, and raths where such mysterious people might play hide-and-seek at will. Old castles were there in ruins, old churches in Protestant control, not many of them, but many chapels, all new, and some very humble in appearance but all suggestive of piety and reverential faith.
I was also on patriotic ground. Vinegar Hill overlooked Enniscorthy and the Slaney ran through the town. Three Rock Mountains were in sight, and Culart and Newtown barry were only a few miles away. Ferns, with its ruins of the Castle of Dermod MacMorrough, suggested events further back, and Tinturn with its Abbey, and near by the sculptured tomb of Strongbow and Eva--all gave to the clustered scenes a deep historic setting. The people, too, seriously, but lighthearted, toiling on their little farms for a living, but always ready for fun or a funeral. Music I heard at the firesides, and dancing at the crossroads, was not an unusual sight. The social glass was universal, yet sobriety marked the people. Beggars were met with at times, but poverty as such among the very poor was not glaringly evident. There was plenty for all with thrift, and a happy life was theirs if they ceased to dream of far-off America and the gold they imagined they could they could have there for the asking.
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