Thursday, September 15, 2011

Farewell to Ireland

Ode to Ireland

Goodbye my Ireland; A fantastic emerald green shamrock quilt spread out on a bed of rocks.  Vast Atlantic Ocean spraying white foam in our faces; white fingers slapping the cliffs as storms tormented blew.  Peaceful rolling velvet hills, cleared of stone now stacked and staggered into walls, cottages, castles and cathedrals surrounded by sheep pastures hemmed with moss and ivy-covered stone walls.  Adieu to threading our way up and down narrow windy roller coaster lanes, their hedges grown over with green broom, pink heather, yellow tansy and purple fireweed, impatient drivers on our ass.  Goodbye to the cities, towns and villages with the welcoming and aromatic scent of bog and coal fires, always a pub with jig-inducing music within crawling distance and as many pints of Guinness as we could handle. Adios to the trunk of the family tree, deep roots buried at Tyrone in crowded graveyards; Celtic crosses like rows of corn.  A final nod and a smile to the freckled colleens with flaming red hair and dimpled smiles, celtic links in their hair. And a friendly wave and a big smile to the Irish lads and aging leprechauns with twinkling eyes, rosy red ping-pong ball cheeks and bulbous noses.  Goodbye my Ireland, I am woven into your fabric and you, me.

Thursday September 15, 2011
Tyler and I thought we had to be at the airport by 11 am but it turned out we had till 3 pm to turn over our car keys, so following a Full Irish Breakfast at our B&B in Belfast, we drove over to PRONI (Public Records Of Northern Ireland) and poked around the church and census records at the base of the family tree, though it seems the Nichol's weren't too big on baptism or filling in census info.  We spent a couple hours but it would take at least three days or a week to go through all the files we unburried. At the end of the day, it seems the Nichols were Protestant transplants from England, send here to weed out the Catholics and grow potatoes in the sidehills of Tyrone.  Unfortunately, the potatoes stopped growing in the great potato famine of 1845 and one Robert Nichol, took up his wife Ann and headed for Canada, where my Great grandfather John ("Jack") Nichol was born in Megantic Quebec. Jack came west to Innisfail Alberta where my Grandfather John ("Red") Nichol was born and he ended up farming at Arrowhead (Sidmouth) where my father Allan Joseph was born... and so on.

After a bit, we drove down to Greater Victoria street (aka, The Golden Mile) and did our final shopping and sight seeing in downtown Belfast.  From there we drove into the anti-British Catholic neighbourhood along Falls Street as well as walking around the pro-British Protestant neighbourhood on Skankill Road, notorious for bombing and shooting eachother, a 20' brick wall dividing the christians from the christians and their respective monuments to their respective dead.