HELP!

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As the two or three readers of my bi-monthly contribution to this blog know, I am busy working on my next Mick Murphy Key West Mystery. I finally came with a name, tentatively, anyway, “NOBODY WINS.” You’ll have to read the book to know why the title.

Like “TO BEAT THE DEVIL,” this book takes Murphy and his eclectic crew of miscreants out of Key West to Los Angeles, New Jersey and Dublin, and back to Key West. I am almost ready to begin the Dublin part of the book, but won’t be in Dublin until mid-April for the anniversary or the Easter Monday, 1916 Uprising against England.

I hope to have the book finished before doing my Dublin research and while there add the color of the city. The story doesn’t change, but I will add detail of the pubs and streets and cemetery.

So, what do I need help on, you ask. I am staying at a hotel in Parnell Square because it puts me near the train station for day jaunts into the countryside. If you’ve been to Dublin or other cities in Ireland, tell me about it. Recommend places to stop, places to eat and drink. Pubs, galleries, bookstores, museums, pubs, and least we forget, pubs.

I hope to find my family heritage while I’m there and if my grandfather was from Ireland (my sister says it’s my great-grandfather) then I am second generation and can apply for dual citizenship, get an Irish passport and travel anywhere in the world!

If you’ve got a story about a trip to the Emerald Isle, let me hear it.

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Anyone interested in the Mystery Writers’ Key West Fest, the website is now 99%, so check it out and sign up. www.mysterywriterskeywestfest.com.

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5 Responses to HELP!

  1. gerald dowling says:

    Good Idea, look around for some rich cousins of mine while you’re there. “NOBODY WINS” a good name with a three leaf clover on the front should do it. Or a glass of whiskey with a three leaf clover floating on the top. Hey, just came to me.

  2. Gerald, my relatives were hung by the Brits or sent to Australia, so not sure how many I will run into. What a horrible thing to do with a good glass of Jameson’s!

  3. Chris Caswell says:

    I’m guessing you’ll be looking for places with a boaty angle? You’ll be close to the big yachting center of Dun Laoghaire, with both the Royal St. George YC and the Royal Irish YC there. If Nobody Wins has any boating in it, this might be worth having a pint at one of the clubs and a look around. Usually pretty accommodating to sailors from the U.S. There used to be a mystery bookstore (Mainly Murder) in Cork if you get that way. If you ever read Riddle of the Sands, arguably the first spy novel, it’s author, Erskine Childers, was executed for gun running in Dublin. The novel has never been out of print since it was published in 1903. Riddle alerted the British to the possibility of English invasion from the German coast and the Brits prepared for war as a result. Childers yacht, Asgard, is now restored in Dublin and there is supposedly a plaque in Howth where he landed the guns. There’s a pub aboard a converted training ship, the MV Cill Airne, on the River Liffey in the center of Dublin Docklands. Dublin has a West Marine (of course!), but Marine Suppliers in Howth is an interesting old style marine hardware. If I think of more, I’ll send along.

  4. Chris, thanks for all the useful info. Will get to some of the places.

  5. Nancy Demers says:

    Hi Mike, I am a friend of Boyd and Marion Prodaehls, and she has asked me to forward you some memoirs of my trip to Ireland. I have lots of wonderful pictures as well if you would like some, just to give you “the feel”! You can let me know.

    Ireland, Sept 5-14, 2012
         My sister and I talked often about taking a trip to Ireland, in an attempt to “trace our roots”, as our Grandfather had emigrated from there, when he was in his early twenties. 
         The Spring of 2012, Sharon called, we discussed it, and decided, “Let’s do it!” She came home the August long weekend, and we began our planning. I know that would be really late for most people, but part of the fun for us, is in finding “the best deal” and going last minute! We tend to go on shorter trips, but cram our days full! 
         We decided on a package that included our flights from New York to Dublin,  (using airmiles from Saskatoon to New York), a car, and four nights accommodations. The remainder of the accommodations we decided to just do Bed and Breakfasts as we went along.
         My sister has a good friend, Anne, that has a sister that is a Nun in Dublin, and she insisted that we contact her sister, Sandra, who of course, insisted that we stay with her, and her companions. Not knowing exactly what to expect, or how to re-imburse them for allowing us to stay with then, we
    Contacted Anne, and asked her if we should offer to make a donation to the church, buy them something, etc. Anne said absolutely not, they would be offended if we tried to repay them, just buy them a bottle of wine! So off we went, to the liquor store to buy a couple of bottles of Canadian wine! (thank you, Wayne Gretsky!)
         We drove to Saskatoon after I finished work the evening of the 4th, went out for supper with my youngest son, and retired to a hotel for the evening . Our flight was at 5:55 a.m. So we had to get our beauty sleep!
         Up at 4:00 a.m., took a shuttle to the airport, and off we went. As we were both flying air miles, we were on different flights, and met up in The Big Apple, around 4:00 p.m.  the next day. Our flight to Dublin was at 8:05 p.m., arriving around 8:00 a.m. the next day.
         We made our way to the rental car agency, and after some fancy footwork there, (adding additional insurance after finding out that the deductible was $1,700 euro!, and upgrading to an SUV from a “tuna fish can with doors”!) off we went to find Sandra’s! Merrion Court?
         We did pretty well, and got very close, but couldn’t quite find it, we stopped a cab driver who was nice enough to take us right there!  We offered to pay him something, but he wouldn’t accept anything.
         Not knowing exactly what we were looking for, we were surprised to find that “the ladies” lived in a two-story brick walk-up on a dead-end street. We knocked at the door, and we’re just about to walk away, when a lovely young lady sitting on the stoop next door, with her two little girls,  spoke to us, saying that they probably wouldn’t be home till late afternoon.
         We then got directions from her as to how to take the bus downtown, as we didn’t want to do any more driving that day. We easily found the bus stop, and made our way down to Grafton  St. It was a lovely warm, sunny day, and we got off and just walked around, getting our “bearings”. 
         In the late afternoon, we caught the bus back to the ladies townhouse, and we’re warmly welcomed by Sandra, a portly grey haired lady about 65 yrs old, dressed in Capri pants and Birkenstocks! Not what we expected from a Sister of the Sacred Heart! She then introduced us to a lovely Spanish  lady named Maricel, that was my age, 54, and a petite, spunky lady named  Daria  , who was almost 70. 
         We hit it off instantly, and they quickly busied themselves, making us a supper of talipia, boiled potatoes, and string beans. We gave them our gifts, and they immediately cracked open the wine!  They made it quite clear that they were not sponsored by the Church in any way, and we’re more like missionaries. Sandra taught English as a second lanquage, Maricel was a school psychologist, and Daria was  a retired, accountant who taught immigrants how to manage their finances.
         When we told them that our maiden name was McDowell, Sandra took a hard look at me and said”oh yes, you are a Belfast girl!”. They told us that there was a McDowells Jewellers,  across the Grand Canal, that had been in Dublin for 100 years, (actually it was  established in 1870)and that we should go down and talk to them. They also informed us that the young Mom that we had been speaking to next door was a relatively famous singer, that had won Ireland’s version of “The Voice” and went on to win for all over Europe and had recently sang for the Queens 80th birthday celebration!
         After a good nights sleep, we struck out in the morning to see Dublin. We located McDowells Jewelers, and spoke to Peter McDowell. He didnt recognize any of the names that we mentioned, but was very pleasant to us. We bought some keepsakes from him, just to have something that had come from there! We walked, shopped, and took lots of pictures, and found out that River Dance was in its final night at the Gaiety Theatre, so we bought tickets for that. We had eaten a late lunch, so we decided to just grab a sandwich at a Marks and Spencer Dept store at the end of the block. While wandering around, I spotted a small container of Irish Double Thick Cream. We grabbed a pre-made Apple Crisp, and proceeded to spoon on, yes, spoon on, this cream on top of it! It was awesome! And our Dad was famous for loving thick, farm cream. We used to jokingly say to him, “Would you like some banana with your cream?”. We took the remainder home to have in our coffee the next morning.
         The Gaiety Theatre was lovely, with ornate balconies, columns, light fixtures and outcroppings. And River Dance was breathtaking. We had 3rd row seats, and we could honestly taste the dust coming off their shoes! 
         We were up early the next morning, and after saying our thank yours and goodbyes to the ladies, we headed up to Belfast.  We stopped at a Unesco World Heritage site called New Grange, which was focused on Irelands original proples, which was ironically not unlike our own native cultures in Northern Canada. About all that I got out of the tour was that, on the 21st of Dec, the shortest day of the year, sunlight shines directly into the main chamber of the tomb,. It is believed that this was how they measured time, a type of calendar for ancient farmers.
         We had heard that there was a small town called Carrickmacross, that was famous for its Irish lace, and in fact, had done the lace on Kate Middletons veil.
         We found it easily, and parked the car, and walked the main street, found the lacemakers, (only to find out that a tablecloth had to be special ordered a year in advance, and sold for approx $10,000!). What we did find amusing though, was that there were an unusual number of funeral directors, and their storefront offices were right on Main Street! 
         We got to Belfast, which is a lovely city, and got checked in to our hotel, The Europa, whose claim to fame, is that it the most bombed building in The world! And right next door to the Grand Opera House. We then hopped on a double decker bus, and went for a quick tour of Belfast, so that we could decide what we wanted to pursue more the next day. As we were on the rooftop of the bus, and it was nice and warm, I promptly went to sleep, but Sharon figured out our strategy!
         We went to a Bennans’ Bar for supper, and shared a burger because the servings were so large. 
         The next morning we boarded our bus, and our first stop was the Titanic Exhibit, which had just opened in April of that year. It was awesome! I would highly recommend it! After going though it, and seeing the dates that it was being built, (we hadn’t even realized that it was built in Belfast) it was possible that our Great Grandfather, who was a Chief engineer, and had worked on the Harland and Wolff docks during those years, might possibly have worked on it!) We acquired an immense amount of information, such as “the Titanic had bathing and toilet facilities that rival led contemporary hotels. The bathtubs were mostly manufactured by Royal Doulton, and the first class lavatories were fitted with Royal  Doulton urinals.”
         Following the exhibit, we continued on, seeing Stormont House,  Trinity College, The Clock Tower, Shankill Road, (which was the dividing street between the Catholic and the Protestants during the troubles). We saw a number of businesses that carried The McDowell name, such as a pharmacy and an optician. We hopped off at Shankill Road, to do our “research”!  Sharon had discovered four addresses that our Great-grandmother and great-grandfather, and later Grandfather, had lived. Two of the addresses that we had were right on Shankill Rd and had been torn down, one had been built on and one was a vacant lot. We carried on to find Malvern St. and stopped to speak to an older gentleman who was walking his dog. He was unaware of any McDowells in the area, but he said, “if you just wait until my dog does his business, I will take you to talk to      , she may know”. So off we went. The first house we came to, he just rapped on the door, and walked in. She didn’t know, but she said,”Why don’t you take them down to talk to Sally, she’s lived here for her whole life, if anybody will know, she will!” we get to Sally’s, same procedure, rap and walk right in! Sally was at her sisters, down the way, but her husband, Tommy, was home, and insisted that we come in, and he would call down there for her to come home!  As it turns out, Sally had grown up in the same block of townhouses as our Grandfather, three doors down! She described the layout of the suites, and kind of gave us an idea of why they moved so frequently. The first one was probably an outdoor “biffy”, with a very limited kitchen, and one bedroom upstairs. The second may have had a slightly larger kitchen, with a sink with running water, and an ice box. The third likely had an indoor bathroom, a refrigerator, two bedrooms upstairs, and electric lights, and on and on. They were wonderful people, who made us feel right at home. Sally and Tommy advised us to go up to the neighborhood bar called The Pony Club   . We had seen it on our way down Malvern St. So we knew where she meant. We thanked them and got some photos, and hiked up to the bar.  We were just walking up to it, Sharon a little ahead of me, (I was likely dawdling along, taking pictures!) She  went up to three middle-aged men standing on the street corner outside the bar, and said “I was wondering if you….” and one of the men cut her off by saying, “Want to have sex?” Sharon’s quick reply was, “I don’t think that I know you well enough!” and his was, “well, let’s talk, then!” 
    We then introduced ourselves, and got the directions to the address that we were looking for, but they insisted that we come in for a beer. It was Sunday afternoon, and as we sat there, each and every one of them made their way to our table, to tell us their story, and how they had contributed to “the troubles”.  One man had been in jail for over twenty years, for his contribution to the Liberation. As it turned out, the first person to be shot, that started “the troubles” had been a bartender at that bar. He’d walked out the front door after working his shift, and was shot. We have wondered often since then,  who guided us to end up there that day!
         We left there, walking back to Shankill, and up a couple of blocks to the site of the bombing of the Bayardo Bar, on Aug. 12th, 1975. There were five people killed in that blast, one being Joanne McDowell, aged 29. We ended our day by sharing a beer, and a baked potato smothered in creamy coleslaw, at The Crown Bar. Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it!  It was delicious! 
         The next day, we struck out to drive the Antrim Coast. It was foggy, but we saw lovely fields of lavender, and more sheep than you could count!  It was misty rain when we reached the Giants Causeway, so Sharon chose to sit it out. It is another UNESCO  World Heritage Site, and I don’t know if there is really an exact explanation for what you see there. One theory is that at some point, a million years ago, a volcano erupted, and when the streams of molten lava, hit the cold, sea water, the lava solidified into columns of rock, spaced only centimeters apart, forming this unusual phenomenon.  It is a totally unique rock formation, duplicated no where in the world. 
         We then cut cross country over to the Belleek Pottery Factory.  We missed the final tour of the day, but we’re able to do some shopping in the gift shop.
         We found a nice little B & B, just outside of Sligo. The accommodations were mediocre but the surroundings were lovely. I was up early in the morning, just to take pictures.   That day brought some interesting sights, including seeing some genuine gypsys, complete with a horse and buggy, touring the Dunguaire Castle,  Irish Stew and fresh bread lunch in Gus O’Connors Pub, dessert of fresh fudge made with fresh farm cream,  in Doolin, followed by a trip to the Cliffs of Moher, (the site of the filming of the Harry Potter movies).  We found an awesome B & B (Dunaree) not far from Bunratty Castle, and bought tickets for a Celtic Dinner Theatre. It was within a couple of blocks, so we decided to just walk. The performance was excellent, with a nice chicken dinner, served by authentically dressed servers. But when we went to walk home, we soon discovered that dark in Bunratty, is DARK! We stumbled our way back, and had a good sleep. The house had specifically been built as a B & B, so each room had its own bathroom. It was really nice! The owners name was Brydie, which Sharon said was a typical Irish name.
         The next day we drove “a long way to Tipperary”, only getting lost once! I got some lovely pictures of doors and entryways, which I later turned into a calendar called, of course, “The Doors of Ireland”! We arrived in Waterford in the early afternoon, and took the guided tour, which I would thoroughly recommend. There seemed to be a rumor that Waterford no longer produced crystal, making it not worth going on the tour or even to Waterford, but we really enjoyed it. Yes, the plant was closed down for about a year and a half, and then re-opened by a group of employees, and are now only making the larger pieces, and specific patterns,  in Waterford, but it is certainly still worth going to. 
         Our final day in Ireland was probably one of our busiest. We stopped along the way at a sm cemetery, that had the traditional Celtic Cross headstones, some dating back to the 1800’s. Lots more Irish scenery, black and white cows, golden fields of neat bales, and rolling hills of green. We dropped off the rental car, checked into our hotel, and hopped the bus to downtown Dublin, for one last “kick at the cat”! We toured St Patricks Cathedral, which was overwhelming, walked St Stephan’s Green, bought some double thick cream to take home, caught another live performance at the Gaiety, “Steel Magnolias”, and some live music by street performers, before returning to the hotel.
         It was my first trip overseas, and I had envisioned it to be a much bigger deal than it was. Everything went wonderfully, and I would love to go back! The people were so open and friendly, and never made us feel like we were annoying them! 
         I guess one always wonders why we are the people that we are, and even though we didn’t find any firm “connections” on our way, I certainly saw some underlying threads of my heritage! Like why our meals revolve around potatoes, why I love flowers, especially Hydrangeas, boats and masses of water, ivy climbing stonework, thick cream,  black and white cows, and all kinds of music and dance. But most all, the vision of Ireland that I’ve being carrying around in my head for all these years, actually exists. Cause we saw it! 

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