Friday, May 5, 2017

Ramblings in Erin

That was the subject line of an email that somebody sent me once. Six years ago, in fact. It was a retired gentleman who I'd got into correspondence with about a mutual literary interest, and who I met a couple of times. I liked his stories about his past, his self-mythologizing tendencies. It's a funny thing...a certain kind of boastfulness is an endearing trait. At least, I find it an endearing trait. 

Anyway, the subject line has stuck in my head over the years, and I've found myself musing over it from time to time. I've wondered if he took it from something, but I couldn't find the phrase anywhere else. A google search returns only one "hit" for it, and it's not a very interesting one. Only just now, I've looked at his original email and the subject line doesn't really bear any relation to what he was writing about-- he was congratulating me on a letter to a newspaper, one which had nothing to do with ramblings in Erin or anywhere else.

What was he thinking of? I don't want to email him now, for various reasons, and I very much doubt he'd remember anyway. A curious sort of glamour hangs over the phrase, in my mind-- mixed with a certain wistfulness, or nostalgia. I don't know why.

"Erin" was perhaps a funny term for him to use, because he was something of an anti-romantic. We had a protracted debate (reluctant on my part) in which he insisted that Ireland had got better and better over his lifetime, as a result of capitalism. I don't care about capitalism one way or the other, but I was trying to argue that much had been lost over that same time-frame. He took the amount of cars you can see on the road today as a measure of social progress. I didn't even know how to argue with that.

So much of life seems like something bewitching glimpsed out of a window, when you were hurrying by, and which is gone when you return to look.

6 comments:

  1. Séamus (Australia)May 6, 2017 at 12:23 AM

    The figure of Erin personified by a young lady was obviously a lot more popular at one stage. The Perth St Mary's cathedral choir director actually possesses an old Christmas postcard which I was told contains, as well as a photo of the choir,a hovering picture of Erin. At one stage choir rehearsals often took place at the Hibernian Club, very close to the cathedral. The building is now being made into a restaurant attached to a hotel that is being built around it. I'm not sure that choir directors and members were ever predominantly Irish-one prominent family in the early 1900s were named Westhoven. But the Christian brothers school has definitely produced the most boy choristers during the choir's existence

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    1. I'm very fond of country personifications. As far as I know, Australia doesn't have one though. Irish emigrants often seem more patriotic than the Irish in Ireland.

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  2. I know Cork has an Erin monument, does Dublin? They have RóisínDubh with a poet in St Stephen'sGreen and that , seemingly unpopular, AnnaLivia-floozie-in-the-jacuzzi.
    There's a few popular fictional figures in Australia , such as the swagman from 'Waltzing Matilda' but none widespread it deep set enough to be THE personification.
    ps.Although the Westhoven family were probably not Irish they always remind me of Joyce's THE DEAD because apparently most of the cathedral choir here were members of the Westhoven family to some degree, including the director. It wasn't until years after Joyce's story was set that the liturgical reforms of PiusX were implemented in the diocese here, but it meant that all the Westhoven ladies had to be let go from the cathedral choir, and some of the gents didn't join the new men and boys ensemble either. The Mr Westhoven who directed the choir wasn't to live very long-he died from falling off a horse, I'm not sure if he was even 30, he certainly wasn't 40 yet.

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  3. I liked the Floozie in the Jacuzzi. I saw her outside Collins's Barracks quite recently.

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  4. By the way,I read in the Conservatives Forum your piece about Maeve Binchy,I knew nothing about her and have only read one book, TARA ROAD, which gave me the impression that she was so obsessed with portraying Ireland without stereotypes that the was almost no room at all for anyone who might just have these stereotype characteristics(surely there should have been one good Catholic in the neighbourhood?) Was the young housewife really going to jump into a divorce, even granted her husband was unfaithful , the same year as the divorce referendum without any noticeable hesitation?
    Edna O' Brian, I've read little of either, except TIME AND TIDE, about an Irish woman also leading a basically materialized life, but she writes it well, you can feel the nihilism of the characters' existence even if that's wasn't the author's intention.

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    1. I saw that one in the cinema but I don't remember much about it. I did get the impression she was considerably less anti-Catholic than most modern authors but I might be wrong.

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