It all began on the very second night of my very first trip to Ireland in 2002…
While driving North from Kerry to who knows where, I stumbled upon a B&B called Clonmore Lodge in the fishing village of Quilty in County Clare. All such quintessentially Irish sounding names, I thought, and such exquisite alliteration to boot. How could I not stay there?
Success. A safe and cozy place to spend the night! (Unlike the night before when I almost had to sleep in the car–another lovely Ireland story). And there I met the gorgeous and personable proprietress Máire Daly.
I remember it as a particularly cold and rainy evening even by West Coast of Ireland standards, but no matter. After settling in and enjoying a fine dinner in nearby Spanish Point, it was back to Clonmore Lodge and time to explore the area. I donned my rain jacket and headed out on foot. It was just a short walk before I was rewarded with some of the most precious memories of my life.
First, the atmospheric cemetery–a garden of Celtic crosses that seemed to grow right out of the road. Not some walled-off scary place but oddly welcoming–inviting even a stranger like me to say hello to the many precious souls who once fished and farmed here, who hoisted so many pints here, who once called this place home. I couldn’t seem to get enough of reading the inscriptions. Even the lichens that clung to every surface spoke to me. Not morbid in the least. What a privilege to be there.
And then there was Daly’s bar–a real Irish bar, not some fancy joint owned by an anonymous rich guy from the big city. There I enjoyed the hell out of my very first Guinness and Jamison’s. There I came to understand deeply what they mean by craic. Craic is quite real. And not easily explained in words. It’s not something you watch. It’s something you do. It’s something you feel. If those smoke-stained walls could only talk.
Finally, there was that sweet furry friend who sat so quietly under the table while his (her?) family relaxed and visited above. The sweetest face, an Irish face, a face I will never forget. To this very day, more than two decades later, I could show you exactly where I was sitting at the time.
The next morning, I met that very same sweet face again trying to stay warm and dry. This is an actual photograph of that bittersweet moment, knowing I would never see her again…
Fast forward ten years to 2012, when I resolved to return to Ireland to go deeper. And to Clonmore Lodge in Quilty County Clare in particular. I reserved a room in advance in the hopes of a reunion with Máire, the cemetery, Daly’s bar, and my sweet furry friend.
The day came for my triumphant return, my heart bursting in anticipation. Warmly welcomed by Máire’s daughter Siobhán. Alas, Máire was out of town. Not due back for days. Bummer. Daly’s bar was closed that night. Bummer. My sweet furry friend was nowhere to be found. Bummer. C’est la vie. At least the cemetery was still there.
Fast forward a month or so… Surprise! I will let the letter speak for itself…
Of course, that $5 bill remains unspent. Of course, I was charmed again by the Emerald Isle and her people. Of course, I resolved that I must do my level best to return to Clonmore Lodge Quilty County Clare– again.
Fast forward two years to 2014.
I will let the photograph speak for itself…
I feared that my sweet furry friend was now long gone, but guess what? Daly’s bar was open that night.
Thank you, Máire Daly.