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Ray Geaney: Emerald Isle holds precious memories

The majestic scenery surrounding the house in which I was born mesmerizes even those not addicted to golf. World-renowned golfer Arnold Palmer, architect of a golf course nearby, stated: “I designed the first nine holes but surely God designed the back nine,” referring to his first and arguably best European golf course.

The awesome scenery no doubt inspired Ireland’s religious patron, Saint Patrick – whose travels took him all the way along Ireland’s scenic west coast – to transform the Emerald Isle into a virtual incubator for saints, scholars and writers. We are familiar with many descendents of these, including authors such as Behan, Binchy, Beckett, Swift, Shaw and Synge. A complete list would of course include Joyce and his remarkable novel “Ulysses.”

I especially enjoyed and was amused by Flann O’Brien’s work. One of his mythical characters invented emergency trousers with long pockets for storing bottles of Guinness; his Escort Service provided ventriloquists so the ignorant could appear to make intelligent remarks at parties.

Like a homing pigeon, I strive to frequently revisit my Irish homeland. During a summer trip, my wife and I availed of an opportunity to view my birth house in the little hamlet of Drumnacurra, County Kerry, situated in Ireland’s most southwesterly coast. This rural community is home to a local school, the third such built (sequentially) there since the time of the Great Irish Famine of the 1840s. My father, principal teacher of the second of these, lived in a modest parish-provided house wherein I was born in one of the two upstairs bedrooms.

The house still stands, externally structurally sound, a mere stone’s throw from the wild Atlantic Ocean. The front doorway would provide a line-of-sight view straight to Manhattan – if the world was flat and one had telescopic eyesight. In wintertime, frequent ocean storms mercilessly batter the house with wind, rain, sleet and snow. In summertime, the long days of sunshine warm and perfume it with a gentle breeze blowing across heather and blossoming wild flowers, all thriving in their natural habitat.

I approached the house curiously to see if it was still occupied. It was indeed; a huge flock of swallows startled me as they suddenly exited the rear of the house, shrieking like squadrons of miniature fighter jets as they whizzed by me and zoomed straight up into the overhead blue sky.

Prior to my kindergarten attendance, Dad was appointed principal of a large school in Cork city to which we moved. There I spent my formative years before later moving on to the United States to achieve a degree in electronic engineering at Syracuse University.

I remember my father’s frequent comment that my mother nearly died the night of my delivery, which was overseen by a midwife. Fortunately, post-midnight Dad secured the services of a doctor who visited the house, diagnosed the cause of my mother’s distress and resolved the problem. Years later, in my presence, my wife asked my mother why exactly she almost lost her life the night of my birth. Laconically she responded: “from fright when I saw him.” I, now a father of four, believe that all babies are beautiful.

My wife still jokingly teases me about this remark while I rejoice in the memory of my revered deceased mother, whom I credit with having had a quick wit and a droll, delightful sense of humor.