This is a third and final column about a trip my family recently took to Ireland. In many ways it seems like a dream. It was a wonderful experience, and it provided wonderful memories.
A portion of what we experienced and the sights we viewed has been shared with you, in this column some more of these will be shared; but even then, there will be significant events and sights not included. In sharing something of this type, it is difficult to know where to begin -- and where to end.
Ireland has had a great amount of history. There were humans living in Ireland during the Stone Age. Through the centuries there have been many wars and there have been many tough times for the people living in that area, including the well-known potato famine.
As we drove through the country in Ireland, cemeteries were observed. To me cemeteries are of special interest, -- viewing the tombstones, looking at the dates and imagining the lives of the departed. I wanted to stop by one of these places. Finally we had the opportunity. In Monasterboice, County Louth, we stopped to see a high cross, a monolithic Muiredach's Cross with its central crucifixion, constructed in the 10th century, about 17 feet in height. At that time, most people did not know how to read. There were carvings that showed biblical scenes, such as the arrest of Christ. This is the way that the monks could explain the stories in the Bible to the people.
In the area was a tower constructed in the 6th century, at least 100 feet in height. There were ruins of two churches which were relatively small. Surrounding these was a cemetery. The plots were generally about the length of the plots in this country and about six feet wide. The grave marking may indicated several generations, their names and when they lived. When someone is buried, they push over the previous person to lay the recent deceased person to rest.
Listening to Irish music watching dancers doing an Irish dance was especially entertaining. While at Killarney we went to a concert on by Liam O'Connor who is a well-known entertainer in Ireland.
A special tourist attraction is the Waterford Crystal Plant where Waterford Crystal is made. It was an interesting tour to see how the molds are made and the crystals are made to perfection. Many of those working in the factory have been there for several years. Many of the workers are paid by piece work. If any flaw is found in the crystal that is made, the piece is broken and the workers do not get paid for that piece. There are many crystals on display, such as trophies for major athletic events and chandeliers.
One of the places we visited was an Irish Marble factory with a showroom. I did not realize that they had a marble quarry in Ireland, but you can find the marble that has been used at several locations in the country. Receiving information how the marble is cut and polished was of special interest. Several in the group bought marble items in the show room including jewelry.
Guinness is a popular dark beer in Ireland and is brewed in Dublin. We did not tour the brewery, but we did go past it and saw the brewery. We did tour the Old Jameson Brewery which had been used as a brewery to make Irish Whisky. It was established in 1780. Irish whiskey is traditionally brewed three times before being placed in oak casks for several years. Those in the group who tasted the Irish whiskey expressed that it is good.
In Ireland there are no snakes. Tradition says that St. Patrick drove out all of the snakes. Instead of the reptiles it may have been bad people referred to as snakes that he drove out. One of the tours that we had was a tour of The National Cathedral and Collegiate Church of St. Patrick. There has been a church at the location since the 5th century. The building seen today was built in the early 13th century. While it is not a museum, it presents a great amount of history. It is a beautiful cathedral, rich in history. It continues to function as a place for daily offering of worship to Almighty God through the medium of great music.
Dublin is the largest city also the capitol in Ireland with 1.2 million people. Nearly one-half of the more than 5 million population of Ireland lives in the Dublin area. Our last full day in Ireland we had free time in Dublin -- not enough time to see some of the things we wanted to see. We got in a long line at Trinity College to see the Book of Kells --"Turning Darkness into Light." More than 1,000 years ago when the Book of Kells was written, Ireland had a population of less than a half of a million. Monks copied the four gospels in Latin to perfection. Without seeing it, it is unbelievable how perfect the printing by hand is. In addition, the pages contained art that was also perfect. In those days, they did not have copies of the Bible accessible for all people. It is due to those monks and others that the Bible has been handed down through the centuries and we have the Bible available to us. This is a blessing that we do not appreciate enough. This display is located in the Trinity College Library, a large library of about 2 million books.
The tour we took was a busy tour and we saw other things including a farmer's market and National Museum of Ireland. The week after getting back, one person asked if I would like to go back. My answer at that time was not now.
Going to a country like Ireland is a good learning experience and will always be meaningful to me. Interest in that country will continue. Those who have gone to Ireland will be in agreement, if you possibly have an opportunity to travel there ---- do it.