Ophelia – A Hurricane In Ireland

If you find this a bit unbelievable, well, so do I.

I’ve learned an awful lot about hurricanes in Ireland over these past couple days, including that they aren’t generally called hurricanes. Cyclone appears to the official name, but here in Dublin, they call them “Big Winds.” As in, “the last big wind we had was in 1987,” or worse yet, if you want to feel really old, “the last big wind we had was before I was born.” It’s also called the Great Storm of 1987.

It appears that the “greatest storm ever”, which of course means in the history we are aware of, was recorded when a freak storm occurred between the nights of January 6 and 7, 1839. It was titled, “The Night of the Big Wind.” This article is a fascinating read, and although it doesn’t happen often, severe storms of hurricanes clearly do happen in Ireland. And they have likely happened in Ireland forever and maybe one in a lifetime would have been known to our ancestors.

Well, big wind, hurricane, typhoon or cyclone, a rose by any other name…and this one is named Ophelia.

In Hamlet’s tale, Ophelia, a name he appears to have made up, is a women tragically torn and who then then descends into madness.

That’s a good description, if I’ve ever heard one, for a hurricane that is going to hit Ireland – way off track…tomorrow…exactly 30 years to the day since the last “big one.”

It’s insane!

Now, of course, this would happen to me. I swear, is Michael Lacopo hiding in my suitcase? Am I related to him and don’t know it? Do we both carry a calamity gene? This kind of thing is only supposed to happen to him, and I mean, it happens regularly to him. In the genetic genealogy community, everyone asks Michael his travel arrangements before booking their own, because everyone knows what happens to Michael. I’m not kidding!

Hurricane Magnet

On the other hand, this isn’t exactly my first hurricane. I seem to attract them, somehow. In fact, I actually got married in the lull caused by the eye of hurricane Isabella, in Ohio. Yes, I said, in Ohio. And then there’s the hurricane on the Outer Banks where I waited too long to evacuate and the road was washing out as I tried to make my way to the Bonner bridge before the road was washed entirely into the sea. That was one of those trips that if you start, you don’t dare stop. And then there was the next hurricane too that sandblasted the side of my car, also on the outer banks….but never mind…I’m sure you get the drift. And suffice it to say I don’t even live anyplace near a hurricane state.

So, apparently I have some sort of hurricane magnetism…and it’s showing again. Mind you, I couldn’t even so much as muster up a rainstorm at home for weeks on end this summer.

Dublin

This trip to Dublin, I swear, has been jinxed from the beginning. I hesitate to say any more, because I don’t want to further jinx the trip, but let’s just say that this trip has been in jeopardy more than once, beginning with the fall in July that happened two days after I booked my (uncancellable) accommodations. You’ve already read about the resulting DVT.

My doctor authorized this trip, but ONLY IF I promised to fly first class, with seat room more befitting my “body type.” I do not fit well into 17 inch seats. Who over the age of about 10 does?

To say I nearly had a coronary or a stroke when I saw the price of the first class upgrade is an understatement. But by that time, it was either lose the 10 days unrefundable hotel and flight I had already booked or upgrade. Do you want to bleed this way or that way?

So, the upgrade was booked and I wrapped both legs in ace bandages for the journey, which she also made me promise. I then discovered that the only way to keep ace bandages in place was to use leggings, or in my case, long underwear given that I didn’t have any leggings.

So, I arrived at the airport looking and walking stiffly like a mummy which earned me a special “groin pat down” in security, even though I am already TSA prechecked. And lots of questions about why my legs were wrapped. I so wanted to say, “because I’m a mummy, in fact I’m a grand-mummy too,” but because I’ve heard that the TSA agents have no sense of humor whatsoever, for once in my lifetime, I kept my mouth shut and better judgement prevailed. Otherwise, I’d still be at that same airport, in some small room.

After all that, what else could possibly go wrong?

Let’s just say something did not agree with me. I was concerned that I wasn’t going to be able to make the actual flight, given that I was apparently homesteading in the bathroom. Not only that, there were there gate changes, in different concourses (of course), with me only able to hobble.

I then received one of “those” phone calls, while camped out in the bathroom.

You know, one of the phone calls we know that is eventually inevitable but we dread intensely. Yes, a family member had passed away, unexpectedly.

So there I sat, in the airport bathroom, in jeopardy of missing a flight in a different concourse, flying into an area that was expecting a hurricane, sobbing as I received the news and trying to compose myself enough to call my family members most affected. I had by now pretty much turned into an emotional wreck.

I considered bagging the entire trip, but there was nothing to be done at home, and the trip, still uncancellable, was extremely costly. The only blessing is that my family member’s passing was swift. So, I managed to find the correct gate, at the last minute, and deposit myself on the plane. I’m not a drinker, but I had two drinks just the same, which for me is absolutely unheard of. I’m going to have to change that answer on my medical records from “no alcohol” to 2 per year.

Yesterday ended as day faded into night and then, just a very few hours later, night faded back into day after an artificially shortened night because you’re flying into the dawn.

So, as I sit here in a historical hotel in Dublin this later afternoon, the sky is darkening once again, but this time, it’s not because of night’s approach. It’s the wrath of Ophelia beginning.

I told you that I’d take you along on this trip, but this wasn’t exactly what I meant. Just the same, let’s make lemonade out of lemons!

We get to experience Dublin together and maybe we will have a great adventure!

Emerald Isle Beginnings

The day began very early, as the sunlight emerged on the horizon and the plane flew above or through some of Ophelia’s turbulence. It was strong enough to wake me up, bouncing around in the plane. Belongings were hitting the floor. The captain woke us up to tell us to fasten our seatbelts.

We passed over the turbulence that was Ophelia, who would catch up with me again in a couple days, playing our own personal cat and mouse game it seems.

When we landed in Ireland, leaving Ophelia behind in the Atlantic, the sun was bright and beautiful. You can definitely see where the nickname “Emerald Isle” originated. That sunshine was to be short-lived.

Of course, I couldn’t check into my hotel when I arrived, because the rooms weren’t quite yet ready. That’s what happens when you arrive at 9 in the morning.

My choices were to sit in the lobby and wait…and wait…and wait…or do something else. I chose to have a tea and some soda bread with black currant and raspberry jams and then take a hop-on-hop-off tour that took a total of about two and a half hours. That would hopefully give the hotel enough time to prepare a room and I would get to see something of Dublin.

By early evening, the winds, gloom and clouds of Ophelia had replaced the beautiful sunshine, but thankfully, not until after I had finished my tour.

Dublin in Under Three Hours

The first thing I learned on the tour is where the word Donnybrook came from.

Donnybrook

This church was the location between Ballsbridge and Donnybrook where the locals prayed for the souls of Donnybrook, and prayed for many of them to go away, it appears.

Our guide told us that while initially, Donnybrook was a local medieval fair, beginning in about the year 800, that over time it devolved into something that included copious amounts of drinking and various degrees of alcohol infused arguing and fighting. Hence, the genesis of the word Donnybrook.

Now, I assure you that my ancestors were involved in this, because, well, my ancestors were always involved in anything like this. I wouldn’t know what to do with a well-behaved ancestor. I would wonder how they ever got into my pedigree chart. Must surely be an NPE!

I would love, just love to visit Donnybrook fair for a day, back in the 1200s or 1300s, perhaps, with whichever of my ancestors might have been living here at the time. Oh, what fun we would have!

Doors

Dublin is also the land of doors. In Georgian neighborhoods, the only thing you are allowed to change on historical homes is the color of the door, hence, this. The guide said it also helps you find the right house when you come home late at night from the pub, or Donnybrook.

And, are you ready for this, the cheapest of these cost upwards of a million dollars, and I’m not talking about the entire row of apartments, but just one flat. And those are the cheap seats.

Markets

Sunday is the day in Dublin for art and street fairs. The fence along this public park sports the offerings of local artists and many people are walking and chatting.

Small markets appear all over the old part of the city, in nooks and crannies.

Along the River Liffey

The Irish famine shaped the people and the history of Ireland as well as the US, Canada and other diaspora regions. Due to the famine, many died, and many immigrated as well between 1840 and 1850.

This photo doesn’t do this memorial justice. Take a minute and look at this short YouTube video.

In the same video, you also get a look at Ireland’s harp bridge. This isn’t the official name, but I also discovered that in Dublin, everything has a nickname and about 90% of them are not printable here.

This bridge can also be played like a harp using fire hoses with pressurized water to vibrate the strings.

Embassy District

The American embassy.

The RDS, or Royal Dublin Society center, where Genetic Genealogy Ireland is going to be held later this week. I can hardly wait!

The Clayton Ballsbridge, my hotel, was next on the circuit.

This beautiful old building was opened as a Masonic Girl’s School in the 1880s.

The tile in the entryway is just beautiful.

Of course, I’m on the 6th floor and with Ophelia headed our way tomorrow, we’ll see just how well this building is constructed. I love old buildings though, and would much prefer to stay in a historic structure if possible.

Architecture

Put another way, the only buildings I’m not cracked up about are modern lifeless ones. I just love quaint, artistic buildings.

The Ferryman, along the river, across from what was the oldest Viking settlement known in Ireland. The descendants of those men probably have a brew in this pub today.

One of the things I dearly love about European cities is the intermingling of the old, meaning medieval, and the new. This is just a typical street scene. Lots of people walking everyplace.

Here’s another example of a beautiful old church behind the Guinness Brewery.

Guinness

Guinness, we have to talk about Guinness for a minute.

I know Guinness as a brand of beer, but in Dublin, it’s a wealthy family who happens to brew beer…the favorite beer of the Irish, it seems.

The Guinness Storehouse, which is also Ireland’s most popular tour, isn’t just a place, but a complex.

The Brewery and the Guinness Storehouse may be where I’ll be touring later this week, given that we were told that they “never close.” I hope that isn’t a dare to Ophelia.

Now, at one point, the hop-on-hop-off bus parked at a stop for a full 40 minutes. So it became the hop-off bus because if you wanted to go to the bathroom or do anything except sit there, you got off.

Now I’m not saying this was planned, but the location where the bus stopped just happened to be right in front of a pub. Like 15 feet from the door

Not just a pub, but a little hole-in-the-wall Irish pub, Madigans – the kind of place I’m just a sucker for. These places are either wonderful or terrible, with very little inbetween. I asked the tour guide where he might suggest something to do, close, for half an hour or so, and he suggested a bowl of soup in the pub.

Mnnnn, now that sounded good.

Ok, Ok, he really suggested soup and a Guinness.

Ok, well maybe he suggested he Guinness part and then muttered something about soup in a barely audible whisper at the end.

WhatEVER.

Did you know that soup in Ireland comes with soda bread? Well, actually, I think everything in Ireland comes with soda bread, from what I’ve seen.

I’m working my way up to Guinness. It’s pretty dark. So I started with a lager, Clonmel 1650. That’s good. I think I’m officially Irish now. My ancestors would be proud, even though I did ask for the smallest one possible.

And there is traditional Irish music on Thursday and Sunday evenings. Oh my. I’m not saying where I’ll be later in the week, but this is certainly a candidate.

Did I mention, that the Irish like to drink….a lot? Irish poet Brendan Breham described himself as a drinker with a writing problem. That’s about right, judging from what I saw today.

I don’t even know what to say.  No, it’s not Halloween here.

Need I say more?

So far, I’m feeling my Irish roots, but I’m not pedaling anything nor am I wearing a Viking horned hat, at least not yet. The week is still young though. No promises about tomorrow or the next day either.

The Week Ahead

What does this week hold, especially with Ophelia? I don’t know.

I do know one thing though, this trip cost far too much to not have fun…so I’m going to. Come hell or high water.  Ummm, maybe I shouldn’t have said that last part…

Someone suggested that if we can’t sightsee, we could pub crawl to get a look at the local flavor, of course. The Irish are extremely helpful like that. Seriously, they are some of the nicest people you’ll ever meet. Perhaps because they are all mellow, or at least have that mellow gene.

Actually, that pub crawl sounds pretty interesting, especially it if includes traditional Irish music and Guinness. After all, Madigan’s pub is on the ground floor, it’s safe, safer than the 6th floor.  Yea…that’s it, all in the interest of safety. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

So, if you don’t hear from me for the rest of the week:

  • I’ve met Ophelia and she was a worthy opponent
  • I’ve fallen in love with Dublin and am busy looking for a house in the even poorer district, probably someplace in Donnybrook.
  • Ophelia was no big whoop and I’m back to sightseeing with Brian.  Who’s Brian, you ask?  Well, you’ll just have to wait to find out.
  • Make something up about what Roberta is doing.

Just thinking that option 4 might be by far the most interesting, and you guys might just have some good ideas too.

You know, I’m wondering if that howling that I’m hearing outside is ghosts, singing Irishmen who drank a bit too much, werewolves or Ophelia has come to call. It’s an unworldly sound, whatever it is.

29 thoughts on “Ophelia – A Hurricane In Ireland

  1. Skip the guiness tour cuz, the Jamison tour is MUCH better. Besides guiness just tastes nasrt! LOL. Btw, ciders and ales are more popular. Try a cider. Bulmers is good as is Mouts. Havebfun and STAY SAFE.

  2. Great tour! Near the end our first trip to Ireland there was a historic blizzard which hit Northern Ireland in late March 2014. We were in Dublin so only had minimal weather issues but 3-4 feet of snow fell in Northern Ireland and buried sheep and cattle. That was also an unusual time for Ireland weather. 😁 Keeping you and the Irish and UK in thoughts during cyclone Ophelia.

  3. Will you look up my GGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGG grandfather Nial while you are there. LOL He was part of a Nat Geo project and is responsible for a lot of grand kids. On my TN Jesse Webb line.

  4. Loved your article and I love Ireland. Take time to go to Trinity College and see the Book of Kells. They turn to a new pafe everyday. Gorgeous!

      • And, also, in Rebekah Canada’s blog today, she mentioned that we can send in nominations for John Reid’s new list of Rockstar Genealogists. Since, your name was not on the list, I nominated YOU.

      • Thank you, but I think it was on the list. I’m honored nonetheless. As soon as John announces that biting has begun, I’ll run a quick article, assuming that I can, all things considered. Thank you again.

  5. “I’m going to have to change that answer on my medical records from “no alcohol” to 2 per year”. You’d better wait until you get home to decide how many drinks per year to report … sounds like there may be WAY more that two :-)!

    Have fun and be careful!

  6. Love your article, Roberta! Love Ireland — my paternal ancestral homeland. Spent 2 weeks there in May 2016. Love, love, love that soda bread — it IS everywhere (and some is better than others!). Hopefully, if you can get to Tara, you can also get to Newgrange — I’ll be looking forward to anything you might write on Tara since I didn’t have a chance to stop there (although I did get to Newgrange). Re: the Big Winds, apparently there was also apparently a “Big Wind” in 1824 — some of my ancestors died in that (Co. Clare), the wind battering their house in the middle of the night.

    Hope the worst is over as far as your trip is concerned.

  7. Thanks for sharing your lovely pictures and the very engaging story of your trip thus far Roberta. My condolences on the death in your family.

  8. When my Irish 2nd great grandmother turned 98, the local newspaper discovered her and interviewed her on a regular basis until her death at 104. She made up wonderful stories, but some appeared to be true. She talked about the “night of the Big Wind” of 1839 but she was in Liverpool. She said there were no trees left standing. So don’t stand near any trees. And have a wonderful time.

  9. You made me laugh so hard – you are so funny. THANK YOU! I needed it. I went to Dublin with my sister and daughter 2 years ago and had a wonderful time. Enjoy 😀

  10. Loved going on your trip with you. Maybe I should check out the land of my ancestors. Only time I visited Ireland was a quick layover on my was to Glasgow, Scotland. In Dublin the only land I saw was the tarmac where the connecting small plane sat. I was pretty much in the same situation you shared, but I had to sit in regular class. I traveled alone and only could afford this trip to Bonnie Scotland because my dad left me a small inheritance and I wanted to see where that part of my family tree lived. My flight was on his birthday and darn if the seat next to me wasn’t occupied. I am sure that was my dad’s seat. I had the best time of my life. Cousins I didn’t know I had and newfound friends made sure my bucket list was fully fulfilled.

  11. Hi Roberta, I love reading your blog but especially love your travel blogs with the added bonus of your stories and perspective with a DNA/historical lense. I live vicariously through your travels and can’t wait to read more. Wishing you fun and wonderful discovery while you are there. Ireland is on my bucket list.

  12. Enjoyed your blog about Dublin. We road the Hop-On-Hop Off bus. The bus even was behind a car with a huge can of Red Bull on it. Even saw the mummies at St Michan’s (though messed back coming back up steps). We visited Ireland in 2008, drove all around the Isle. Family returned & I spent 2 weeks researching in Belfast & Dublin. — My grandmother was born in Belfast in late 1890’s. (I have many Irish ancestors). I do have a question that maybe you could answer later when you have the time. My 3rd g.g.m. Elizabeth Solley (married name) was supposedly born in Ireland or of Irish descent, but there has always been a question about her ancestry. She married Michael McCrea and lived in rural NW Pennsylvania in early 1800’s. She died in 1847, so little is known about her, as the children were raised by other family members. I did mtDNA a year ago, trying to get a clue to her ancestry. According to FTDNA my haplogroup is T1a1k1. Do you know if that haplogroup is seen on Ireland? Thanks.

  13. I’m so sorry for the loss you experienced. It had to be hard to leave home. Praying Ophelia is easy on you, and God will protect you. Thank you for sharing your experiences. I feel like I’m walking beside you.

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