Even in fog and rain, Ireland sparkles

... a Stringer recalls visits to the Emerald Isle

from Don and Lorry Norris

Have you thought about future generations? Not to worry,
for they have become part of the new world of technology -- or gone to America.

Ah, Ireland.

Other than the fact that this beautiful land is being overrun with vehicles
on narrow roads, it is truly a place of harmony and beauty. I can thank the
Massachusetts Institute of Technology -- MIT -- for one visit to the emerald
isle, and a school fund-raising program in Beverly, Massachusetts, for another.

Keep in mind that it has been some dozen years since my wife Lorry and I set
foot on Irish soil, but we had the brand new advantage of digital photography
and several years of study with very expensive cameras. And so the photos you
see in this article were facilitated by passing time and advanced technology.

That is a portion of
Galway Bay with the Burrens is the distance. On a foggy day, of course.

The first trip to Ireland came about as friends -- Brian and Priscilla Simm,
natives of Melrose -- bid four hundred dollars for a week's use of a cottage in
the southwest corner of this island nation, below Castletown Beare and
virtually on the edge of the Atlantic. The Simms invited us, so all we had to
pay was $200 for rent and the airfare. Like $350 each.

It was a magical trip. Most everything went our way -- our reception by the
Irish people, our rented farmhouse, the location (within a few hundred yards
from the darkish ruins of Black Castle), and even the weather, although we did
see frequent rain and a fair amount of fog. Even so, Ireland is gorgeous.

It is the subtle colors and the myriad of shapes that
creates beauty.

The place is a nation of good people -- not too much different than we
Americans -- of rolling, green hills and mountains, of narrow lanes and grass-
roofed houses, and endless rock walls, marking subdivisions of once-huge farms
as families grew and divided the farm among descendants. There are places you
will swear you are on the board of a giant puzzle, and you must get through
this fascinating maze.

We still are indebted to MIT and Walter Bender, then-head of the Media Lab,
for our second visit to Ireland. You see, the Melrose Mirror is an experiment
in world communications, and we civilian staffers had the rather pleasant job
of spreading the word. We four Stringers were sent to Ireland to do just that,
extolling the use of the new internet for peaceful accomodation, raise world
standards of living, and keep the peace by teaching people of all nations to
stay in touch. A very noble movement.

The four lucky editors chosen for the job were Kay McCarte, Russ Priestley,
the late Ella Letterie and Don Norris.

There is a dichotomy in the bright red new tractor, beside
a pile of peat bricks that will be burned to heat these homes. It is Irish

That program was to be of two years duration, and it created electronic
communications around the world. Our Stringer trip to Ireland was in the
third year, in which MIT's partner, Eir Com, the Irish telephone company, made
computers available to every family in the town of Ennis for a meager cost of
200 punts.

Now, at our 15th year, the Silver Stringers, operators of the Melrose Mirror,
are still publishing. And while our software program -- unique in its day --
has been replaced by technological advances many times over, we Stringers
refuse to quit. There are still four or five charter members, writing and
communicating to the world -- and we have seen at least a hundred members over
those fifteen years.

But all that is beside the point of this article. My real point is the beauty
of the Irish Republic, its welcoming people, its warm hospitality. For example,
the ubiquitous Irish pub is an institution that even supports family
togetherness, and we visitors were welcomed to many Friday evening family song
fests -- at the corner pub.

In an Irish pub, Lorry and I saw debates and fisticuffs, heard poetry spoken
with an intensity, seen families singing of their joy of life, and heard music
from the very soul of Ireland. We were amused when, at midnight, the Guardia
(police) came to enforce the closing hour. Everyone left peacefully, smiling.

We were invited to homes and -- one time -- watched as the lady of the house
carefully carved cutlets from a just-caught salmon. We enjoyed dozens of Irish
breakfasts with our hosts and other guests at the many homes that cater to
over nighters, to tourists.

We talked to the children, to the policemen, to teachers and community leaders,
all of whom granted us valuable time in their daily schedule. At one point we
found ourselves talking Irish -- it is an infectious, musical language. And for
our sponsors -- the Media Lab at MIT -- we spoke before crowds of Irish people,
men and women, about our idea of bringing peace to the world by daily
communication via the new internet. We even taught families how to run their
brand new computers.

And when our program was finished, Lorry joined me at Shannon Airport, to
spend another ten days driving the narrow roads of Ireland, meeting the people,
sampling Irish food, and staying every night in another Irish home.

We went to Galway where I bought a beautiful tweed sport coat, then climbed
some small mountains that dot the western side of this small nation. We visited
the Burrens, a rocky, rolling land where farming is restricted to cattle, for
the land is truly of bedrocks. We toured castles and ruins of castles, we
stopped frequently at many stone relics, churches, abandoned either during the
potato famine or immigration to the new world.

And everywhere we went, there was beauty, and peace. For that is what we found
Ireland to be.

August 5, 2011

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