Tuesday, 9 October 2012

The Family Return to Our Irish Nest!

As I promised in my last blog, you find my nest temporarily elevated to the magnificent setting of 'Ashford Castle' on the shores of Lough Corrib in the West of Ireland.  Why you may well ask, do I find myself in the sumptuous grandeur of one of the most famous hotels in the world? The corridors here are arrayed in pictures of the Hollywood glitterati, from Fred Astaire and Bob Hope, to, in more recent years, John Travolta and Brad Pitt, all of whom have been guests in this wonderful place. Well, the simple answer is one man and a dream to return to his homeland.

As a child growing up in the West of Ireland in the 1920s', dad's father had been acquainted with the owners of the castle and as a boy he had played amidst its acres of land and occasionally enjoyed games of table tennis in the big house. He dreamt one day of returning to the nearby village of his birth, where his childhood had been close to idyllic; swimming in the crystal clear waters of Lough Mask, fishing for trout and cycling for miles with his twin brother, on adventures straight out of 'Swallows and Amazons'.

He wanted to return, but not alone; he wanted to bring the whole family with him! And so it was that dad chose not to spend money on himself, but to treat his close family to a weekend with him in 'Ashford Castle'. Very soon, word spread to the extended family and all keen to return to their roots, the clan gathered in this magical place, from England, Ireland and as far away as Switzerland, all ready to share in our father's dream!

What a dream it turned out to be. We visited the old house where he grew up and in the local library, the librarian, who just happened to be involved in writing the history of the town, was fascinated to indulge dad in his countless reminiscences


Later that evening, under the sparkling light of huge chandeliers, we dined in splendour, dad surrounded by his whole family, now a guest in the castle where he once played as a boy. Retiring to the comfort of the lounge after dinner, a grand piano provided the music and, after a quiet word with the singer, we all watched with a tear in our eyes, as she sang the words of his favourite song 'Danny Boy' especially for him!  The night drawing to a close, dad took to the piano himself and, lost in the music of his youth, played 'Danny Boy' until it was time for bed!

We finished our weekend with a boat trip around the 365 islands on 'Lough Corrib'. The weather was kind to us and, as the boat pulled out from the jetty, the lilt of Irish music filled the air. Below deck, my daughter ordered 'Guinness' for everyone and we all shared a taste of the black stuff, as we made a toast to dad's dream and to a perfect day.

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