We are on our first ever visit to Ireland as a couple. I did a tour with my mum and dad way back in the 1970’s but Jane has never visited these shores before. We flew into Dublin but avoided the capital city and headed west for a couple of hours, fetching up in Limerick, Eire’s third largest city. We booked into the rather modern George Hotel which is in the centre of town and this proved to be a good choice. It was getting on a bit by the time we had settled in, showered and changed so we just headed down O’Connel Street, took a right hand turn at Bobby Byrne’s pub and headed for Dolan’s, one of the stalwarts of Limericks music pubs.
When we arrived there was already an ad hoc group of musicians playing tunes in a side room and we were lucky to get a table. We ordered some Guiness and some excellent, unfussy pub food and settled in to listen to the music. At about 9pm the ad hoc group stopped and a couple of blokes on guitar and (I think) a bazouki guitar started playing and singing. They had great voices and played some songs with which we were familiar and could sing along to, so we had a great first night in Eire and returned to the hotel full of good food and beer and ready for our bed.
The next day we were able to explore the city a little and we were gobsmacked to bump into Terry Wogan. Our Tel was perched on a stool at Harvey’s Quay, microphone and interview notes in hand. OK, this was a bronze statue of the sadly departed Wogan but it is there because Terry is one of Limerick’s famous sons.
The city is built on the banks of the mighty Shannon River, Ireland’s longest. Looking along the river you can see St John’s Castle, built on the orders of King John (of England) in 1200 AD. So the city has a very long heritage and it is still very compact and easy to walk around.
Although Limerick shares its name with a popular form of (often risque) poetry in the early 19th century the poetry probably didn’t originate in the city itself. But here’s a Limerick written by our friend Andy after hearing that we had spent the evening in Dolan’s bar ;
There was a young traveller called Mellors
Who went to a pub in the cellars
He decided to choose it
For terrific folk music
And a chance to drink gin with the fellers
Just beyond Limerick the Shannon opens up into a sheltered, almost land locked, estuary. It was on these calm waters in 1937 that the first Short S23 Flying Boat landed on a proving flight. In those days a flying boat was the only way of carrying a number of passengers across 3000 miles of the Atlantic from the New World. But the ‘planes couldn’t carry enough fuel to get all the way to the UK or Europe so they touched down on the Shannon. The small settlement of Foynes became the European terminal for the transatlantic service, though it wasn’t until 1939 that commercial flights began.
Today, Foynes has a Flying Boat museum but little else of interest. Still, you can imagine what a magnificent sight a flying boat landing on the estuary would have made.