Eric 2010/09/07 8:56am

Ireland has always held a special place in my heart, though I'd never been there until this past week. Growing up, we had records around the house by the Chieftains, Clancy Brothers, Tommy Makem, Irish Rovers, DeDanaan, and more. Most of them were brought over to the farm by a neighbor, Mary (Mullen) Felch, who brought my mom with her several times to see Tommy Makem and the Clancy Brothers. My dad rarely left the farm, but I do remember him taking Mom to see the Irish Rovers in Plattsburgh. I'd hear him singing, "I'm a rambler, I'm a gambler, I'm a long way from home..." during milking or to wake us up in the morning when we didn't want to get out of bed. We knew we had Irish blood but weren't sure from where. I am certain of it on my mother's side, especially now after playing in Ireland. Her family, the Finlaysons and Finnells, look and act like so many of the kind people I met over there. My grandparents, Arleigh and Joan Finlayson, went to Ireland with Aunt Molly shortly before Arleigh passed away. It was one of the highlights of their lives, and now it is one of mine.

We weren't there nearly long enough, as we went there to work and were not able to build in a lot of sightseeing. We did get to 'play' a little, I mean, a wee bit. We played in Omagh, Northern Ireland, in County Tyrone at a wonderful festival at the Ulster American Folk Park. The people were so receptive to our music that we sold out of Cd's on the first day. They really seemed to enjoy the story songs the most, just like my aunts and uncles and cousins did in Arleigh and Joan's kitchen. There were tears on the slower pretty songs and shouts on the rowdy ones. Familiar. As much as I enjoyed playing, I think what I'll take away the most is the conversations I had with people, hearing about their struggles and hopes for a lasting peace. I went there purposely with my antennae up, and I bet there'll be new songs as a result. The lilt in their voices was musical. We'll steal many of their expressions as well. I visited a lot, but I listened more. I'm trying to write about it now while it's fresh, but I'm still feeling sensory overload and should probably come back to it at another time. But I like writing when I feel this way.

I stood in the waters of the North Atlantic in Sheep Head's Bay in Donegal and thanked God for letting me be there. I really felt Him there. I want to go back with Corina. I couldn't help but wonder if some of the folks in my bloodline had been there, too.

"...I'll eat when I'm hungry, I'll drink when I'm dry, and if moonshine don't kill me I'll live 'til I die."